Twelve years ago, Nichy and Lisa Vegas had to petition a national organization and convince dancers all over that their Beachwood company's competition was one worth attending.
Now, the Cleveland DanceSport Challenge attracts competitors from as far away as California and gives dancers of all ages an opportunity to showcase their moves for scholarship funds.
"We literally had to start from scratch," said Nichy, owner of the Cleveland Ballroom Co. "I traveled with my students to competitions and networked while I was doing that."
Piece by piece, the company grew the event into one that features vendors and plenty of professional dancers who compete before hundreds during a three-day span. The 2012 edition begins at noon today at the Embassy Suites in Independence. The Challenge continues through Saturday night, culminating in an awards presentation.
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Nichy, whose studio has been at 23500 Mercantile Road #G for 16 years, expects competitors from Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Canada and more. Last year, competitors' ages ranged from 7 to 93.
"People are encouraged," he said. "To them, it's like going on a field trip to a different city and a nice hotel. They're depending on us as organizers because it's based on customer service. You want everyone coming to the event to have a good time because they pass that along, saying, 'hey, they have a great event going.'"
Today's first session includes solo exhibitions and professional and amateur freestyles. The evening session commences at 7 p.m. with general dancing and a world professional and amateur series qualifier. Dancers will be split into multiple classes based on ability.
"It's an entertaining evening, and it's a production," Vegas said. "We have people coming into (Greater Cleveland) from all over and they get a picture of the city, so it's a win-win for everybody."
Click 'PDFs' to the right to view the entire weekend's schedule.
The event is open to the public. Admission costs $20 for day sessions and $45 for evening sessions. Dinner and evening packages are available for $90. For tickets, call the hotel at 216-986-9900, and you will be transferred to the event registration line.