November 25, 2016
EnerGy National Dance Competitions founder Gina Urso-Dudash grew up backstage. Her father was a violinist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for 47 years, and after losing her mother at a very young age, Gina began to accompany her father to the theater where he played. There she took dance classes with all the great touring companies—the Joffrey Ballet and Ballet Russe among them.
“I remember I was about 7 or 8 years old, and I saw the prima ballerina of the Ballet Russe onstage, and I thought she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I went backstage to have her sign my program, and that’s when I realized that she may have looked like she was floating on air, but it took an incredible amount of work.”
After studying ballet since childhood, Gina decided to start her own dance studio. Dance Grosse Ile opened in 1997, and she eventually began attending dance competitions with her students. She began to think about starting her own competition, and launched EnerGy (after a year of research) in 2010. “It was a way to stay connected to the world I love, when I was not turning and jumping as I used to. The competition world enables you to meet all the frontrunners, the industry professionals. It opened up a whole new adventure for me.”
EnerGy started with 10 cities, and now regularly tours to 33 cities across the country. How does she balance the demands of running a studio and a national dance competition?
Innovation is a key to Gina’s approach. “It’s an ever-evolving industry, and you have to remain fresh. There’s always something knocking at the door, and I don’t shy away from that. And I have a very reliable, very competent staff—they are rock stars at getting the job done.”
What does Gina love most about the dance competition world? “When you see a dancer every day, can’t see how they’ve grown like someone who sees them maybe once a year. It’s such a joy to me—I love it, I love the positive feedback from clients that they love what we do. I love seeing the growth in the kids year to year.”
“I’ve watched my own kids,” she says. “Even though they were trained beautifully in ballet, they gained a different type of stage presence from competition. It really is obvious that they become better performers when they are around their peers—it makes you step up your game.”
Gina got involved in The ADCC early on. “I got a call from a fellow competition owner, and learned pretty quickly that belonging to The ADCC provided great value. Group buying was a huge draw, but just as great was how everybody came together to help one another. It’s invaluable having somebody like Michelle Kresge from Spotlight, or Drew Vamosi from Leap!—and other people who’ve been through it all—sharing their knowledge and wisdom.”
Gina recently became Chair of the College Connections (formerly Scholarship) committee, after serving on the Membership committee, where she helped to bring in five new ADCC members in the last five months. She says, “When you believe in something, it’s very easy to sell!”