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Students bust a move at competitive danceathon

Police Athletic League hosts dance competition for lower-income public school kids.

A dance troupe from East New York -- decked out in top hats, suspenders and bow ties -- tapped to music from the classic Gene Kelly film "Singin' in the Rain" while five judges looked on, beaming.

About 250 kids, ages 6 to 13, from all over the city had packed into the Police Athletic League's Edward Byrne Center in South Jamaica, Queens, last Thursday for the annual dance tournament, "Showstoppers."

The theme this year was "Let's Go to the Movies," and performances ranged from "Madagascar" and "Happy Feet" to "Austin Powers" and "High School Musical."

"They put a lot of hard work into it," said Susan Han, the Police Athletic League's director of education, who also DJ'd the competition. "And they have a fun time on stage."

She called "Showstoppers" perhaps the most energetic of PAL's events.

Indeed, the audience continually clapped along and shouted out encouragement to the dancers. It also played call-and-response games with an MC between performances.

During a lunch break, Ariel Lewis, a Brooklyn third-grader who danced to "Madagascar," said she was most enamored with her mask, while Rosanna Perez, a Bronx fourth-grader dancing to "Hair Spray," said her favorite part was doing a split.

"I take it seriously," Perez said.

And the winners are:

In the end, Perez's PS 48 took home first place in the first- to fourth-grade dance competition. The Armory Center in Washington Heights, dancing to "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," came in second, and IS 218 Beacon in East New York, dancing to "Singin' in the Rain," came in third.

In the fifth to eighth grade dance competition, Brownsville Beacon came in first, the Armory Center came in second and the Edward Byrne Center came in third.

Meanwhile, the New South Bronx Center won the cheerleading competition, and the Edward Byrne Center won the stepping competition.