The Western New York Dance Championships was first conceived in the year 1988 by parents Gary and Janice Kilborn and Jerome and Natalie Andrzejewski. At the time, their children were competing in western New York’s premiere dance competitions: Rochester Dance Olympics, Rochester Invitationals, Southtowns, and Summerdanse. Frustrated by increasing costs, shrinking rewards and operational mismanagement that ignored the experience of their customers, our founding partners sought to establish an alternative. "We constructed this competition with special attention to the sacrifices made by parents and their children. We each had careers in other fields so we could afford to focus more intently on our customers' experience and less on our profit margins," says co-founder Gary Kilborn.

Mr. Andrzejewski, affectionately known and remembered by all of us who knew him as “Mr. A,” first worked with his nephew to pioneer an innovative, computer-based scoring system.  After seeking the assistance of Eugenia Smith to help establish our industry connections, the first Dance Championships was held in 1989 at the West Seneca East Elementary School. The competition was an operational success and word of our credibility traveled quickly and over great distance. The following year, our entry count exploded, necessitating the addition of a second facility. Demand and participation from central New York began to grow. To help alleviate the congestion at our Buffalo event, we introduced new competitions to Syracuse in 1993 and Rochester in 1997.

Despite a major shift in the dance competition industry from locally, family-owned businesses to nationally-owned companies, the Dance Championships has persevered. Starting in 2007, Jennifer (nee Kilborn) Gargiulo and Derek Kilborn began to assume greater responsibilities. Excited to protect a well-established reputation and continue our founders’ legacy, the Dance Championships launched a re-branding effort that same year, introduced social media efforts in 2010, online registration in 2011, video adjudication in 2012, and music uploading in 2016.

The Dance Championships has exceeded all initial expectations and we attribute our success primarily to the support of the dancers, their families, teachers and studios. Participating in the 2013 competition, our 25th anniversary celebration, was one dance studio that has been with us every year from the very beginning. Thank you Moves-n-Motions for giving us a chance when we needed it the most. Special recognition also goes to Karyn Kelly Dance Center, Lorraine Goddard Dance Studio, and Steppin’ Out Dance Academy for competing with us at least 15 years, and Jennifer’s Arts in Motion, Jody B’s Studio of Dance and Mary Alice’s Dance Studio for competing with us at least 10 years. 

We also attribute our success to a number of other factors, including our careers and families, attention to evolving technologies, punctuality, and accessibility.

Our careers, outside of dance, are the primary source of income to support our families. Consequently, there is not an upward pressure to charge extraordinary entry fees. The Dance Championships is a business but it is also a mission of love, providing opportunitites to families and children who could not otherwise afford to participate in competitive dance. On average, we charge 45 to 52 percent less than our national competitors. We deliver this affordability using the same cutting edge technology for online registration, video adjudication, and music uploading that you’ve come to expect from our national competitors. Why pay more when you can have the same for less?

Finally, each of us has our own young families with three children under the age of five. We are sensitive to the time constraints, budgets, and demands of contemporary parenthood. This has been, and will continue to be, a primary consideration that influences our every decision.

Thank you to everyone who has shared in this wonderful experience over the years. We look forward to seeing you again soon and starting new friendships!

Copyright 2017 The Dance Championships All Rights Reserved
Co-Owners and Directors
Derek S. Kilborn and Jenn L. (Kilborn) Gargiulo
Circa June 1982
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