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Rex Mill dancers to perform at Orange Bowl

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The "Yellow Jackets" will be in the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl, in south Florida.

The Rex Mill Middle School Yellow Jackets dance team, that is.

The team has been invited to participate in the half-time activities of the post-season college football game, which is part of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), said Rex Mill Dance Instructor Heather Keilwitz.

The Orange Bowl will be played on Jan. 3, 2011, beginning at 8 p.m., at Sun Life Stadium, in Miami Gardens, Fla., and it will be aired nationally on cable sports network, ESPN.

Twenty Rex Mill dance students are expected to make the trip to Florida, to perform during the game, according to their dance instructor. In addition to performing a the game, Keilwitz said, the students will participate in a dance conference, in which they will work with professional choreographers, including one who works with music artist, Lady Gaga.

"This is an opportunity for these kids to see dance from a new perspective, and to dance on national TV," said Keilwitz. "It's going to be an amazing experience that they will never forget."

Before the dance team performs at the Orange Bowl, however, it has to raise the money to make the trip to the Miami area. Keilwitz said it will cost approximately $1,100 per student. She added that the pupils are seeking to pay for the trip through corporate and private sponsorships, out of their own pocket, and through lots of fund-raising.

"We've been doing crazy fund-raising since the spring," Keilwitz said.

The school, located at 6380 Evans Drive, in Rex, will host a "Family Fun Day and Community Yard Sale" on Saturday, to raise some of the money to pay for the trip. The event is expected to include several activities, including games, face-painting, a pie toss, raffles, silent auctions and a mini-health fair. Tickets for the activities will cost 50 cents each.

Keilwitz said approximately 15 tables have been rented by members of the community, at $20 a table, for the community yard sale. Members of the community can still rent tables to sell their items at the yard sale, the dance instructor said, but she added that they need to call her at the school, today, at 6380 Evans Drive, in Rex, to let her know they want a table.

Keilwitz said the students have been standing outside local stores on weekends, asking people for donations for the trip. But, she added that they have also been doing several other fund-raising activities, such as operating the concessions stand at Rex Mill athletic events, holding school dances, and selling baked goods.

"Everything you can think of to raise funds, we've been doing," Keilwitz said. She later added, "This has been a good experience for the kids, because it has taught them that if they really want something, they have to work hard to get it."

This will provide a first for the dance group at 4-year-old Rex Mill Middle School, according to its dance instructor. Although, the dance group went to New York City for a dance workshop two years ago, she said, "this will be the first time we've taken the students out of the state to perform in front of a large crowd of people."

Keilwitz said she found out from officials with Bowl Games of America, which runs the Orange Bowl, that Rex Mill was being invited to participate in the half-time show, back in April. She said she had participated in an Orange Bowl, half-time show the organization put on back in 1996, and called on contacts she had with the group to get her students an invite for the 2011 game.

Keilwitz said she expects to receive a video of the routine her students have to learn for the show next month. "As soon as I have that video, I'm going to have the kids learning the routine right away," she said.

Mia Patterson, 13, an eighth-grader at Rex Mill, said she and other students got really excited when they found out they were invited to perform at the Orange Bowl. "When I found out about it, I wanted to go really bad," Patterson said.

Patterson, who has been taking dance lessons since she was 2, said she was most excited about the trip, because of the unique opportunity it provides her to dance on a large-scale platform.

"It's a once in a lifetime experience to do this," she said.