Abbigail Stevens, left, celebrates her statewide title with her teacher Stephanie Zlockie. CONTRIBUTED.

Marathon is home to a newly-crowned statewide dance champion. And she’s only 10 years old.

On Nov. 26, Abbigail Stevens outplaced 21 other competitors to earn the title of 2021 Florida Dance Masters (FDM) Junior Miss Dance. A statewide competition, the event was limited to dancers from FDM studios. 

“It’s a pretty prestigious one for the state,” said Jamie Stevens, Abbigail’s mom and one of her biggest supporters. “Florida Dance Masters itself is a program that studio owners and teachers have to apply to be a part of. They have to pass exams in disciplines they teach to be a member.”

On Your Toes dance studio in Tavernier, where the younger Stevens practices, is a member of the organization and gave her a gateway to entry.

Abbigail used a routine she called “Bloom” for her crowning achievement. Featuring the song “Dance for Me Wallis” from the movie “W./E.,” the performance was a lyrical solo with ballet. When asked to describe the lyrical dance form, she explained: “You’re dancing to the music, it’s flowing, and then when it has a beat, you hit it hard.”

On such a large stage, both Stevenses were understandably nervous. However, the younger of the two defaulted to her known routines. “I put my AirPods in, ran my dance and the tricks I was struggling with,” said Abbigail. “I watched some other dancers, and they made me a little nervous because they had some good technique, so I was nervous that something would go wrong, but I just stretched while I was backstage.”

As for her mother, Jamie tried a new approach. “This time, I just left her alone before she went on,” she said, laughing. “My heartbeat was racing. I cried of course, because she’s amazing and has so much talent. But she nailed it. She’s a performer, and she performed it beautifully.”

The mix of old and new strategies seemingly paid off. Of the 22 dancers, fewer than half were announced as finalists, in no particular order. “It was a little nerve-wracking, because they said ‘no particular order.’ But hers was the last name they read,” said Jamie. 

In the end, however, Abbigail took home the crown. Furthermore, her performance in other classes during the weekend convention earned her a full scholarship to the three-week Fort Lauderdale Youth Ballet intensive program this summer.

“I’d like to give thanks to FDM dance, my dance teacher that choreographed the routine,  Stephanie Zlockie, and my family for changing their Thanksgiving tradition for me to go to this competition,” said Abbigail.

The new champion is slated to perform her solo for the rest of the dance season, which typically runs through May of next year, so keep an eye out for a chance to see Florida’s Junior Miss Dance in person.

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.