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CONTRIBUTED Students from AFTT Studio pose with their banners won at NexStar Dance Competition. The competition team was the Southeast Region 7 winner in 12U for their routine "Foodies in the Kitchen."

AFTT wins region championship in dance

AFTT might be a small dance studio from a small town, but its students are making big names for themselves as the 2019 Power Rankings 11U champion for Star Dance Alliance Region 7 representing seven states in the Southeast.

“It’s one of those things that when we win or we get announced, people always look around like ‘Who are they, and where are they from?’” said AFTT owner Addie Pickett Harbin. “It’s nice to say that we’re from Russellville, Alabama. It really puts us on the map in the competition world.”

AFTT has had a competition team for six years and has competed at NexStar for two years, but this year’s competition in Murfreesboro proved to be the best of all, as the studio had a clean sweep during the three-day competition.

Students were awarded first overall, highest scoring novice group, studio of excellence award and a judge’s choice award. Harbin said winning a judge’s choice award is a big deal because only three to five awards are given out each day.

“That’s almost just as impressive to us, to win a judge’s award, whether we won first place or not,” Harbin said.

Along with the group awards, Harbin also received a choreographer’s award for the group piece “Foodies in the Kitchen.” The number features crowd-favorite food related songs, such as Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and Buckwheat Boyz’ “Peanut Butter Jelly Time.”

“It’s always a joy when the judges notice you out of all of the other groups,” Harbin said.

The competition team consists of 24 girls ages 6-17 who all perform in the group number. This was their third competition of the season.

“We always go in with high expectations, but I always want my girls to do their best,” Harbin said. “As long as they are working and doing their best, that is winning to me.”

Harbin said the team received an invitation to attend a gala in New Jersey because of their Region 7 win but were unable to attend because of timing. However, she said next year will be different because her goal is to attend the gala by repeating as region champions.

“This win shows the girls why they’re here and why they’re working and that it is recognized,” Harbin said. “These girls don’t do it for the trophies. They just love what they do, and I think that is what makes it fun.”

Competition team member Stella Hill said she began dancing at AFTT at age 2 and has loved watching the studio grow.

“(The studio) has grown a lot, and we’ve gotten a lot better,” Hill said. “It’s just fun to see how hard work has paid off.”

Although the competition was in March, the studio recently received its banner for being region champion. Harbin said she is going to hang the banner high in the studio so the girls can always see it as a reminder that hard work pays off.

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