The KEDA Angels, ages 12 to 15, balance school, their personal lives and constant rehearsal to perform at special events throughout Port Orange and surrounding areas.
When anyone arrives at the Kinetic Expressions Dance Academy, all they have to do is follow the music.
As it gets louder, six girls spinning, kicking and jumping come into view, led by Port Orange resident Crystal Draper, the academy's owner.
She opened the studio in 2003 after graduating college in Virginia. She was an associate dance instructor at another studio before the lead instructor retired. She took over and eventually moved the location to South Daytona, where KEDA now is open.
Draper hosted her first recital with about 70 children, but her most recent recital had about 150. She teaches children as young as two years old, including her daughter, how to dance, but as a psychology major, she also implements teaching important life skills, such as working with others, handling stress, compartmentalizing and organization.
"It's more than just dancing and learning steps," she said.
Four different performance companies within the dance academy learn a variety of dances — ballet, tap, jazz, acro, hip-hop, contemporary, lyrical, musical theater and modern. The first semester, which peaks during the holiday season, is their busiest time, with up to three or more performances booked each week.
Draper said she often relies on the KEDA Angels, a group of six girls ages 12 to 15, to lead performances at special events throughout the community. Many got their start when they were toddlers.
This group, in addition to their home and school lives, spend at least six hours each day rehearsing.
How do they find the time to do it all?
"That hour break on Tuesdays," joked 15-year-old Sanah Spar.
Many got their start in other sports, but gravitated to dance for different reasons.
Darian Swirka, 15, said her mom enrolled her in dance classes when she was 3 years old. She wanted to stop going to classes, but continued dancing around her home. A few years later, she joined again and stuck with it.
"I've grown up with it, and I really like it," she said. "It's a way to express myself."
Some of the dancers wear many hats. Kayla Moulton, 13, has participated in soccer, T-ball and BMX bike riding, in addition to dance. Draper said she can rock her dance makeup under a heavy bike helmet.
"I've always stuck through dance," Moulton said.
Others, like 13-year-old Lydia Holmes, who began dance lessons with Draper when she was in preschool and now wants to pursue dance as a career.
"I've never stopped dancing," she said. "It's really fun and one of my passions."
"You can have KEDA, so I can go to Fiji," Draper told her.
Draper said dance often saves her students from getting into trouble because the studio is a safe place to be that teaches them something new and holds them accountable.
"It has saved a few lives and given them somewhere to be," she said.
Twelve-year-old Jordyn Williams said it's a good environment for her, and she's grown up with her fellow dance mates.
"I've tried other things, but dance has always been my rock that I know I can come back to," she said.
Olivia Russ, 14, said she also likes that the focus is dance and not always competition, which she encountered as a competitive cheerleader.
Draper said though they do enter some dance competitions, which have been popularized by shows like Dance Moms, they prefer to perform in the community.
"It's not about the trophies, it's about having a good experience," she said. "It's much more rewarding for us to perform in the community and make a name for ourselves — A name that matters. We do it for the cause, not applause."