3rd-grader has 1 foot in the dance world


October 10, 2002|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN 8-year-old Shannen O'Neill reaches inside her bulging dance bag, it's like opening Pandora's "shoe" box. The daughter of Peter and Wendy O'Neill of Linstead has become such an expert in so many dance styles - ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical jazz and Irish step - that she regularly wins dance competitions across the United States.

"She loves to dance," her mother says. "It's in her blood. She comes alive on stage. I think she's very talented." Shannen started dancing at age 2 and competing when she was 5 years old.

Although she's a natural when it comes to dance, the little third-grader spends five hours a week in dance classes, plus private lessons and group rehearsals, all at Dance Explosion in Glen Burnie. She has a repertoire of solos that includes musical theater, jazz, ballet and lyrical jazz, a dance style her mother describes as a "jazzy version of classical ballet."

She also competes as a soloist and with as many as 12 groups. She also has a dancing partner, 8-year-old Meaghann Potter, daughter of Cindy Potter and the late Sean Potter.

In March, Shannen competed in Starquest's regional dance competition in Fairfax, Va., where her musical theater routine from the Broadway show Little Me won her the title of Regional Petite Miss Starquest and Regional Petite High Score Soloist. (Petite is a designation for dancers age 9 and younger.)

That same month, she competed in the New York City Dance Alliance's national competition in Denver, where she won two junior (ages 7 to 10) awards, one for high score for her musical theatre routine, and one for high scorer overall.

In July, Shannen was in Virginia Beach, Va., for Starquest's national competition where she was crowned National Petite Miss Starquest. She was also named National Petite High Score Soloist. Along with a crown, a trophy and a bouquet of roses, the Miss Starquest award earned Shannen a check for $500.

At the regional and national Starquest competitions, Shannen and Meaghann earned high score championships for their duet performances.

"Shannen remembers an awful lot of dance routines for a child her age," her mother says. "She's very serious, hard-working and focused about dance, and it carries over to academics." She maintains an A average at St. John the Evangelist School in Severna Park.

The O'Neills have three other children: Sean, 14, Heather, 13, and McKenna, 5.

Student honored

Alicia Zahn, 17, a senior at Severna Park High School, has been selected to compete in the National Principal's Leadership Award scholarship program. The daughter of Linda and Steve Zahn of Shipley's Choice, Alicia is a member of the National Honor Society and was vice president of her junior class. She plays varsity field hockey and lacrosse and received the 2000 Beth Balasic Award, an annual award presented by the school coaches to an outstanding student athlete.

This past summer, Alicia was a representative at Girls' State at Frostburg State University. Active in Young Life, the Methodist youth fellowship group and the high school leadership program, Alicia will direct the honor society's spring blood drive. Several colleges are recruiting her to play lacrosse.

"Alicia exemplifies those qualities we look for in future leaders," says Severna Park High School Principal William Myers. "She is an excellent candidate for this prestigious award."

Pet blessing

New babies are blessed, new homes are blessed and, sometimes, entire fleets are blessed. Now your trusted companion, your best friend - in other words, your pet - can be recognized as one of God's creatures at 4:45 p.m. Sunday at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church's annual Blessing of the Animals.

All animals are welcome, even a child's favorite stuffed animal, but the church asks that live ones be on a leash or in a cage. Refreshments will be available for humans. Registration occurs in the church parking lot at 400 Benfield Road in Severna Park. Information: 410-544-5983.

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