ANSON — As one of 179 students participating in the school district’s dance program, 14-year-old Linda Riley of North Anson stands out.

That’s because during one routine, she gets to shake her head and spin her long hair in circles. It looks like it causes dizziness and a headache.

How did she learn to do the move and still continue dancing? Practice, she said.

The students in School Administrative District 74’s Maine Dance Institute know what it takes to learn a routine: lots of practice and an ability to let go.

“I dance because it’s fun, and I get to hang out with my friends,” Riley said at a recent dance session in the gymnasium at Carrabec Community School.

The dance program for fourth through eighth graders at the school, Garret Schenck School in Anson and Solon Elementary School is in its 26th year and has allowed more than 2,000 students to shake it loose.

So many parents, friends and community members attend the annual hip-hop, free-style dance show — which this year will be May 5 — that they can’t fit everyone in Carrabec High School’s gymnasium, Director Jill Everett said. So they do the show twice, at 3 and 6 p.m.

Last year about 150 volunteers helped at show night, and about 1,000 people bought tickets for both shows.

“It gives every kid who chooses to do this a moment in the spotlight,” Everett said. Unlike some sports, “No body has to sit on the bench and wait to play.”

The school district provides the $25,300 needed for a dance instructor, program coordinator, dance assistant, technical directors, set designers and sewers, Superintendent Ken Coville said. The money from ticket sales goes toward making costumes.

The program appears to be popular. About 71 percent of eligible students elect to take it during what would be their study hall.

“I’ve always liked to dance,” Brandon Dixon, 14, of Solon, said.

“I’ve always wanted to do it since I was little, and I think it’s really cool,” added Autumn Holzworth, 14, of Solon. “It’s good to get active.”

Each year the dance program has a theme, and this time it’s board games. That means Everett is busy sewing lollipop and gingerbread men costumes to represent Candy Land, domino costumes for dominoes and giant cheese costumes for Mouse Trap.

Volunteer and parent Heather Longley started helping out 26 years ago when she was a freshman in high school. She said she likes that any student can join, regardless of ability.

“It’s all about dance,” she said.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

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