SPRING HILL — At age 11, not many kids have given serious thought to what they want to do with their lives. That was not the case with Lauren Alagna.
Alagna, 17, was named Senior Miss Legacy at the Legacy Regional Dance Championships in March in Kissimmee. It was one of the crowning achievements of her career in the sport.
Senior Miss Legacy is an honor awarded to advanced dancers at the competition. There are multiple Mr. and Miss Legacy titles bestowed each year, but the Senior Miss moniker is the highest honor a young woman can receive.
The accomplishment confirmed everything Alagna had been working for since she made a major decision six years ago. That's when she knew she wanted to pursue dancing as a career.
Alagna has been dancing since she was 3 at a workshop in New Port Richey. After about eight years there, she switched schools and moved to John Leggio's Center for the Performing Arts in Spring Hill when she was 11. It was about that time when she began to be exposed to the musical theater and some of the other directions the world of dance could lead her.
She started to hone her craft. After a while, she felt that if she was going to get better, she was going to have to switch schools again. That's when Erin's Danceworks in Spring Hill came into the picture.
"I wasn't getting the technical aspect of dancing as much at John Leggio's," Alagna said.
The effects of the change immediately began to show in her routines. The competition teams at Erin's were successful, and in turn Lauren said she was seeing more improvement in her own dancing.
"They definitely do more one-on-one and watch to make sure you're not slacking off," she said. "(Coaches) Erin (Messaris) and Kelli (Gill) know what's best for you, and if they see the drive in you, they won't let you fail."
Alagna graduated from Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Pasco County last month and is planning to attend Florida State University in the fall. Her two older sisters, Danielle and Michelle, both graduated from FSU and majored in theater, which Alagna also plans on doing.
She wants to join the Seminole Dance Force, a competition and performance dance club at the university, or another dance troupe. She believes that would give her a chance to continue performing as much as possible while keeping up with her studies.
"I just want to do as many shows up there as I can," she said.
Alagna already has some experience with musical theater. The past three summers, she has done one show each year at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill.
Alagna says her biggest influence in getting onto the stage came when she was 11. A woman named Katie Kerwin was her first voice coach.
"She was a huge influence on me," Lauren said. "I used to go watch her at the Show Palace (Dinner Theater) all the time."
Kerwin, who now lives in California, did some off-Broadway performances and encouraged Alagna. Since then, Alagna has taken acting and singing lessons.
Her parents, Mark and Donna Alagna, try to make it to almost every recital and competition. Even her younger sister, Melissa, comes to most of the shows.
Family members aren't the only ones with confidence that Alagna will someday find herself on a big stage somewhere. Messaris, the owner and head instructor at Erin's Danceworks, has the utmost confidence in one of her star dancers.
"She could definitely do something right now at Disney or Busch Gardens if she wanted to," Messaris said. "It's a hard career to get into, but she's so committed."
Alagna's ability to bring together the rest of the competition team has also impressed Messaris and the other coaches at Erin's.
"When she came in, Lauren mixed in with the team," Messaris said, "but she's really become a leader now."
Before she heads off to college, there is still so much on Alagna's plate.
Along with the title of Senior Miss Legacy, she won the Summer in L.A. Dance Intensive Scholarship at the competition in March. Everyone at the event was eligible, making it another elite honor. The award entitles her to go to Los Angeles for a dance convention where agents and talent directors will offer advice to help her get her foot in the door for auditions.
Erin's also has its recital coming up in June, where Alagna will perform a solo.
Finally, the Erin's competition team will head to Orlando in July to compete at the 2010 DanceAmerica National Finals.
No matter what Alagna tackles next, one thing is sure: She's committed to a future on the stage.
"It seems like she's never had a bad day," Messaris said. "Once she picks what she wants, I have no doubt that she can do it."