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Studio 5D Dancers Pay Tribute to Birmingham Bombing 50th Anniversary


Brandi Boetto (12DDCompany secondary), Avery Richey (11), Rachel Vogin (12), and Emily Wightman (12) cried after their last performance of “Birmingham Sunday” at their national dance competition in Savannah, Georgia.  Their performance was technically solid but more importantly, it touched the judges so emotionally that they were awarded not only Diamond First Overall Junior Small Group, but additionally they were given the highest Junior score of the Encore DCS weeklong national dance competition.
Gaymarie Tomlinson, Owner and Artistic Director of Studio 5D Dynasty Dance Centre in Winter Springs, was inspired when she listened to Joan Baez’s, Birmingham Sunday. “The music gave me goose bumps. I knew immediately we wanted to honor those four little girls that died at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.” Once Tomlinson had the vision she ran with it. In partnership with choreographer Rebecca Tarner, they choreographed a dance number that had an intricate set by D.A.C Productions, stunning white angelic costumes, and physically challenging choreography. “We know this is heavy material for these young kids, but we think it’s important for our dancers to know about these things that actually happened, ” said Gaymarie Tomlinson. Through the dance the girls have a way to honor this emotional tragedy.
Ironically, all four dancers are Caucasian, but each of them agree they have never felt more connected to a performance. The 16th Street Baptist church was a meeting place for civil rights leaders in 1963 including Martin Luther King. After ending racial segregation earlier that year, racially motivated terrorism was widespread. On Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, as 26 children entered the basement of the Baptist church the bomb exploded. Four children died, including Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson. Each of the dancers studied pages of background material of what happened to the four girls and became emotionally drawn into the terrifying experience. Additionally, each girl was given one of the four girls to honor and remember while they performed the routine. The purpose was not to reenact the bombing, but to remember an important event in American history and pay tribute to the four innocent children through the song and dance.
Gaymarie Tomlinson is celebrating 30 years of dance instruction and is still making waves in the dance world, winning many choreography awards and First Overall awards throughout Florida and the United States.  The four girls featured in this routine are a great example of the quality of instruction at Studio 5D Dynasty Dance Center. Brandi Boetto was the First Overall Junior Solo Champion at nationals.   Avery Richey was chosen as the Encore Cover Model and will be featured in every national dance magazine this upcoming season. All four girls, Boetto, Richey, Vogin and Wightman are top junior soloists, along with holding several regional and national titles.   Boetto, Richey and Vogin share a special bond as the 2011 Starpower World Champion Trio.   Avery Richey reminisces about the trio win, “Winning the trio was so much fun.   It was a huge competition and they were filming Dance Moms at that competition. We didn’t realize we would all be on national TV and beat Abby Lee Miller’s trio at the same time!”
While dance is becoming more and more in the headlines with SYTYCD, America ‘s Got Talent, Breaking Pointe, Dancing with the Stars and even Dance Moms, these girls wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to these four young girls who lost their lives in a way that could be remembered through the art of dance.