Karen Opper, who has been dancing for 14 years, will be front and center for her newest role — a Front Line dancer for the Miss Ohio pageant.
Opper, 17, daughter of Kacey and Larry Opper of Norwalk, was chosen as one of the six featured dancers for the event even though she couldn’t perform at try-outs because of a broken thumb.
The broken thumb was a dancing injury, which required a cast and two splints for more than three months.
“I got kicked in dance class,” she said, so she just sent a tape of previous performances, including numbers she choreographed for entertainment at the Miss Maple City pageant, in to pageant officials. They were so impressed with teenager’s talent that they chose her on the spot even without a live demonstration.
When Opper met with the other Front Line dancers, she admitted to feeling a little out of place.
“They’re all older than me,” she said, since the other dancers range from 19 to 26. “They called me the baby. It was very intimidating the first day.”
But once on the dance floor, Opper trusted in her talent and training and discovered she fit right in.
“I opened up more the second day,” she said. “We had to do a lyrical dance and I just started making it up and they let me do it.” Her choreography will be part of the group’s performances for the four days of the Miss Ohio contest.
Opper has studied tap, jazz, lyrical, ballet, pointe, hip-hop and modern dance in Sandusky and Toledo. For the past two years, she has choreographed numbers for the Little Sis dancers for the Miss Maple City pageant.
Though she enjoys all forms of dance, lyrical is Opper’s favorite.
“It is emotional,” she said. “It goes with the lyrics. It is the form I can express myself with.”
The confidence she’s learned through her training helped her to take charge when the Front Line troupe needed to come up with a lyrical dance. Opper said she was a little surprised when the older dancers accepted the moves she suggested, but they quickly picked up on her suggestions and completed the dance.
They had only two days to meet, dance together and come up with routines. The group will come together again four days before their performances for intensive rehearsals. They will then perform for four days at the Miss Ohio pageant.
Those performances will be something new for Opper.
“There will be singers performing at the same time,” she said. “We have to dance behind them. I’ve never done that before so it should be interesting.”
Opper, who will be a senior at St. Paul High School next year, was initially reluctant to try out for the Front Line group.
“I didn’t really want to do it at first. There’s so much going on,” she said, between school, track and her other activities. But now she’s very glad she took the chance to send in her tape.
“It is going to put me out there for more people to see me and see what I can do.”
Roberta Camp, Miss Maple City 2007 and Miss Ohio 2007, urged Opper to try out for the group after her performances at the local pageant.
Opper admits to some butterflies as the big performances approach.
“I’m excited, but I’m a little nervous because they’re all so good and I’m like the baby coming in.”
But sees this as another move toward what she wants in her future, which includes dancing, of course.
“Something professional or teaching or dance therapy,” Opper said. “I just love it.”
Roberta Camp, Miss Maple City 2007 and Miss Ohio 2007, will turn over her crown to the new Miss Ohio on June 21. Preliminaries will be held at Mansfield’s Renaissance Theatre on June 18, 19 and 20.
Heather Wells, Miss Maple City 2008, will compete in talent on Wednesday, swimsuit on Thursday and evening wear on Friday. Interviews for the contestants will be held on Tuesday. The Miss Ohio Outstanding Teen pageant will also be on Tuesday.
Highlights from the competition will be shown on Ohio News Network, cable channel 119 in Norwalk. Wednesday and Thursday’s highlights will be broadcast the next day, respectively, from 10 to 11:30 p.m. Friday’s highlights will be aired Saturday from 4 to 6:30 p.m.
Saturday’s finals will be broadcast live from 8 to 10:30 p.m.
Contestants will arrive in Mansfield on Thursday and participate in the Miss Ohio Festival on Friday. They will make a public appearance at the Richland Mall on Saturday, take part in the Miss Ohio Grand Parade on Sunday and waitress at two Applebee’s restaurants on Monday.
Tickets for preliminary nights are $20 and tickets for finals on Saturday are $40. A package of tickets for all four nights is $85. Call the Miss Ohio office, (419) 522-6677) for tickets. Buyers can request to be near the Miss Maple City contingent.