Growing up as a kid in Saugerties, Olivia Harris was getting bored with school sports, and wanted a new competitive challenge. She found it at World of Dance.
“I was always very active and extracurricular, I played soccer and softball,” she says. “Once high school hit, my closest friends were all doing different things like cheerleading, but I kind of dropped off with organized sports.”
Olivia heard about Saugerties’ World of Dance studio from her best friend, who had just completed her first year there.
“She tried it the first year it opened, and recruited me to do it,” Olivia says. “My cousin who was a year older was also going to do it, and it was nice to find something that we could all do together.”
Olivia signed up, and started brushing up on her skills for a tryout to determine which group she would be placed in.
“Immediately when I walked through the door, it was kind of intimidating,” she said. “It wasn’t serious or stuffy, but you realize that these are real dancers there, who’ve been doing it their whole lives. I was like, do I even belong here?”
However, Olivia says the tryout was fun, and it was affirming for participants of all different skill levels.
“The tryout is to just see if your heart is in it, and if they can work with you,” she says. “I had such a blast that I immediately signed up.”
Since her skills were a little rusty, she was put into a class with some younger dancers at first.
“It was after school, during the week, kind of like an after-school sport with the same schedule,” she says. “I wasn’t offended about being with younger people, it was a great way to brush up and learn the lingo.”
I literally started at zero, knowing absolutely nothing, and Regina took me in and was able to teach me
After a year, the owner of World of Dance, Regina Marcucci, pulled Olivia aside and told her she was getting promoted to the next level.
“She saw that I wasn’t getting challenged enough,” says Olivia. “She was really good about communicating and understanding where I would be comfortable.”
For the next several years, Olivia progressed through many different styles and themes of dancing; tap, jazz, hip hop, Broadway and what’s called a lyrical routine.
“As you get into advanced classes, you ended up with more lyrical routines,” says Olivia. “It’s more contemporary, and evokes a different stage presence where you’re really feeling the music, dancing to evoke certain feelings. I literally started at zero, knowing absolutely nothing, and Regina took me in and was able to teach me.”
As a senior in high school, Olivia served as a “student director” at WoD.
“I was helping teach the entry class, and helped with logistics around the recital, dance team, and stuff like that,” she says. “I realize now that was my first experience managing and really working with people. I was helping the dancers develop, sharing my expertise, and it really helped me when I entered the workforce.”
Olivia went on to study at St. John’s University, and still came back on break for classes at WoD.
“We all loved the studio for the people,” she says. “So many of us came back for the college class. We loved being there, and we met so many people we normally wouldn’t have in high school.”
After college, Olivia went on to be a certified public accountant, and now works in North Carolina for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
“I get to meet all the wish kids that come through my office, and having the experience from WoD helps,” she says. “Regina is a role model in that she’s welcoming and funny. She knows when to turn it on and off. You’ll be challenged but also won’t feel pressure. There’s time to goof off, and there’s time to work.”
“I think Regina has a great culture,” she says. “There are boys who dance too, there’s every age group. People with lots of different interests and background, but who all have dance in common.