Thomasboro teen wins national competition with dance routine

By: Dallas Knauer

By: Dallas Knauer

By: Dallas Knauer

By: Dallas Knauer

THOMASBORO – As Andrew Cribbett sat among his competition, his mind raced.

Did I stick that move? Was my posture strong and stable? Did the judges like me?

The boy from Thomasboro pondered these questions as it came time to announce the winners.

As his category approached, Andrew didn't think he had a chance. "There were 68 people in the dance category," he said. "It was the largest at the competition."

All of a sudden, a name is called.

Andrew thought it sounded like his, but thought it could be just wishful thinking. Then he heard it again. He had won.

Andrew, 16, a junior at Rantoul Township High School, won the gold medal at the national ACT-SO competition in Orlando for a contemporary-modern dance piece. ACT-SO stands for Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics and is sponsored by the NAACP.

"I wasn't sure I had won at first, but once I realized I had, I was extremely excited," he said. "I honestly didn't think I would win."

Andrew's journey to nationals began at school, when the chair of Champaign County's ACT-SO branch came to speak.

"Anyone can sign up. All you do is go to a meeting to find out the basics, then you go to your local competition and from there it's straight to nationals if you score over 95."

At the local level, Andrew won a gold medal for the same dance he took to nationals.

Andrew's grandmother, Nancy Cribbett, said she always knew he had it in him.

"His grandfather and I support him in whatever he does, and we know dance is something he's great at," Nancy said.

Andrew lives with his grandparents. "They've raised me for the past 13 years because of family issues," he said. "It's no different though, living with them. It's just like Mom and Dad, except its Grandma and Grandpa."

Nancy said her grandson's love of dancing is long-held.

"I can remember when he was about 3, and he would watch 'Dirty Dancing' over and over again. He wore the tape out fast-forwarding and rewinding it to the dance scene," Nancy added. "He also would watch ice-skating for hours on end."

Andrew knew he wanted to dance when he went to his first recital at 6.

"I went to see Rebecca Kornegay's dance recital for Christine Rich Dance Studio of Savoy," he said. He currently dances at the Rich studio.

"When Andrew was watching that dance recital, he was dancing in the aisles and wouldn't stop," Nancy added. "It was then I asked him if he was interested in dance and of course, he said yes. So I put him in tap since I thought that was the most 'boy' thing."

He now focuses on jazz and some ballet.

Over the years, family and friends have both seen a change within Andrew.

"From the time before Andrew started dancing to the time after he started dancing, Andrew is better behaved," Nancy said. "He is also more disciplined, his school grades are better and he has a more positive outlook and response to situations."

Nick Lyles, of Urbana, an incoming freshman at Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., said he's also seen a change in Andrew since he met him two years ago at an ACT-SO competition. "He a much better dancer now then when I first met him," Nick said. "He's very precise and works hard."

Andrew says he hopes that he will do something more with dance after high school. He plans on going to college, but he hopes dance will be a constant.

"I would really like to make a career out of dance, which is another reason I like to participate in the ACT-SO competition other than for experience," Andrew said. "You just never know who's watching you. Tons of people get signed at nationals."

Dancing has not only been a way of self-expression to Andrew but also a door-opener.

"Without Andrew's dancing, our family wouldn't have been to the places we have or meet the people that we have," Nancy said. "Some of the stuff we have done would have never been possible if Andrew didn't love dance."

Dallas Knauer is a student at Parkland College and a graduate of Rantoul Township High School.

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