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Starpower International Talent Competition


By Deborah Searle of Dance Informa.

Starpower is entering its 27th season this year with events scheduled in 62 cities across the US, Canada and England. As a dance teacher, studio owner and father of a dancing daughter, Starpower founder Gary Pate saw an opening for a dance competition back in 1988 that could be exciting, entertaining and expansive.

“I’d sat in every seat, from a performer, to a judge, to an organizer and thought, ‘Why not do it myself?’ I had a vision and I ran with it,” Pate says.

And Pate didn’t just run, he sprinted, with the help of his business partner Grace Wakefield. Starting with an 11-city tour and one National Championship, Starpower has now exploded into one of the largest talent competitions in America, hosting tens of thousands of performers of all ages every year. With so many talented competitors Starpower doesn’t just host one national competition, but six, and national events also include master classes and auditions offered free to all contestants!

“We see anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 acts at each championship, so it would be difficult for us to have just one event because we would be there for a month!” explains Pate.

Pate knew that Starpower would be a success. Asked if he expected Starpower to become the leader it is today he says, “To be quite honest with you, yes. I knew we had the formula.” But even with a winning formula, running such an event is a huge undertaking. “When you run a dance competition you and your staff can put in up to 35 to 40 hours from Friday until Sunday night, so it’s really rough. You’re on the road so much and it’s pretty exhausting.”

But Pate seems far from exhausted, with excitement in his voice about the 2013 Nationals and plans for future growth.  “Our next mission statement is to create an international organization and an international dance championship – we want to make it global.”

Having just returned from London, Pate is enthused about European opportunities. “The London show we just did was so popular. They love us in Europe because it’s like a rock concert when Starpower goes in there - they don’t have anything like us.”

“Starpower is very unique, because we are a very entertaining dance competition. It’s not stuffy. It’s not boring. It’s about the performer, it’s about the dance teacher, and it’s about the parents and the friends who participate and come. It’s an experience!”

To make the competition even more attractive, Starpower has three levels of competition, with a novice level, an intermediate level and a more advanced level. “Some dancers take class three hours a week and others come 20 hours a week. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. By having levels at Starpower, it affords dancers the opportunity to compete against other performers that are on their level,” explains Pate.

“Starpower also provides a fabulous stress-free atmosphere. Competition can be extremely stressful but we take the edge off and make it fun and exciting. All of our region managers are well trained on how to make the event memorable for each one of our performers, as well as the parents and dance teachers.”

Starpower doesn’t only care about the dancers’ weekend experience, they also care about the long-term career goals of the young artists.

“Agents attend the championship events, as well as Royal Caribbean. Royal Caribbean finds many of their dancers through Starpower. I can’t even begin to tell you over the last decade how many dancers they have hired through Starpower.”

Coming into his 27th year as director of such a large event, Pate is so grateful for the dancers, studio owners and parents who have supported Starpower and given 100 percent in competition over the years. “The kids truly inspire you,” he shares. “When you see them every year come back better and better and you see them creating memories it’s pretty gratifying.”

Capezio supports Starpower as a sponsor. “Capezio is a worldwide leader in dance apparel, and to have them associated with Starpower is truly an honor,” says Pate.

To find out more about Starpower visit