The choreography in Michael Jackson's music video “Thriller” has inspired the First State Academy of Dance to include it in their “Mid-Year Dance Concert” at the Milford Senior Center this Sunday.

The choreography in Michael Jackson's music video "Thriller" has inspired the First State Academy of Dance to include it in their "Mid-Year Dance Concert" at the Milford Senior Center this Sunday.

The Mid-Year Dance Concert, which is free to the public, is a very casual performance in which FSAD's dancers will present short pieces that represent the various styles of dance the academy offers (ballet, hip-hop, pointe, jazz, tap, contemporary and modern).

Each year, FSAD director Michele Xiques allows her advanced students to do a fun showcase piece in the concert, and this year they chose to perform "Thriller."

Her students can't wait to show off their zombie dance moves.

"I love performing because I can really express myself and show how hard I worked here in class to everyone," said Katie Fields, an advanced ballet dancer at FSAD. "I just love being on stage and being proud of my performance."

Fantastic four

Fields and three other advanced-level ballet students (Taylor Hogan, Glory Tucker and Owen Lawson) will perform solo pieces in the Mid-Year Dance Concert. Each of their repertories were praised by judges at respected dance competitions and auditions held in the mid-Atlantic region on Jan. 10 through Jan. 12.

Fields will showcase a lyrical ballet piece to pop singer Kelly Clarkson's "Break Away." Fields recently performed the piece in a New York City Dance Alliance competition in Baltimore, Md., and it wowed the judges to grant her a rating of high gold (which is comparable to receiving four out of five stars, with platinum being the highest mark).

The NYCDA is known as one of the leaders in offering thrilling competitions in the dance community.

"I never competed before, so it was definitely an honor to get out there in front of judges and perform my best for them," said Fields, 15, of Seaford.

Lawson also earned a high gold in the competition. He performed a lyrical piece to rock band Imagine Dragon's song "Demon."

Lawson didn't even see it coming when the judges blessed with him a high gold.

"I was surprised," the 14-year-old said.

In addition to receiving that honor, Lawson also won NYCDA's triple threat award, which he earned through a separate competition for dancers who are skilled in the areas of ballet, tap and jazz. The award earned Lawson acceptance into NYCDA's summer dance intensive program in NYC, as well as a $500 scholarship toward the program.

Fellow FSAD dancers Tucker and Hogan racked up accolades for the academy as well. Both were accepted into the Rock School of Dance for Education after successful auditions at the Rock School's studio in Philadelphia, Pa.

At the Rock School, Tucker performed two ballet pieces from the characters Bluebird and Princess Florine in the ballet "Sleeping Beauty." Hogan performed a dance from the ballet "Fairy Doll."

That same day at the Rock School, Hogan and Taylor competed in the prestigious Youth American Grand Prix semi-finals. Taylor didn't advance to the finals, but she did manage to place top 12 out of 200 dancers. Tucker didn't place in the competition.

Nevertheless, Tucker and her three FSAD peers each said Xiques has been instrumental with their success because she's harped on them about nailing their technique.

"I'm a perfectionist about every movement, from the fingers to their toes," Xiques said. "I demand perfection and I have them look up to that."

Seeing the students rack up such accolades has been gratifying to Xiques.

"It makes me feel very happy and very proud knowing that what I'm teaching them is helping them succeed," she said.

IAF winner

Along with her advanced students, Xiques has recently been recognized for dance-related activity. Last week the Delaware Division of the Arts announced she's a 2014 Individual Artist Fellowship grant winner.

Xiques was recognized in the category of emerging professional, and she received a grant worth $3,000 for the choreographies she developed for her original productions "Pirates of the Caribbean Ballet" (2011) and "Twilight Ballet" (2012).

Xiques is one of 17 Delaware artists to receive an IAF grant. The grants are intended to help artists finance the promotion of their work, as well purchase equipment and materials or fulfill other needs that might allow them to advance their careers.

The public will have an opportunity to see the varied works by Xiques and her peers as they're all required to have a public exhibit or performance that showcases their work this year.

For Xiques' exhibition, she'll present an original production titled "Pippi Longstocking Ballet," based on the popular children's book series of the same name, at the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover on April 11.

"I'm very thrilled and honored," Xiques said of earning an IAF grant. "It kind of puts my life and what I do in perspective, because this is what I was born to do."


WHAT "Mid-Year Dance Concert," presented by First State Academy of Dance

WHEN 3 p.m., Sunday

WHERE Milford Senior Center, 111 Park Ave., Milford


INFO Visit or call 422-2633