Family and friends of the Cape May County dance troupe Shore Thing gathered in Wildwood Crest's Bayview Inn on Jan. 5 to watch as the dancers, ages 7-17, advanced on national TV into the semifinalists on Paula Abdul's new CBS reality-competition series "Live to Dance."

As the Jan. 5 episode revealed, the three judges, Abdul, choreographer Travis Payne, who worked on Michael Jackson's "This Is It," and former Pussycat Dolls singer-dancer Kimberly Wyatt selected Shore Thing as one of 18 acts to move on and compete for a $500,000 grand prize and the title of America's top talented dancers.

"It's been the experience of a lifetime," said Sara Nichols, 17, of Ocean City, the oldest dancer in the dance troupe. "These people are my best friends, and we are so fortunate to do what we love with our best friends on national TV."

"Live to Dance," which features routines by dancers of all ages, styles and sizes, group and solo, airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS.

In order to make it to the semifinals, Shore Thing performed a minute-and-a-half choreographed jazz and contemporary routine to Michael Jackson's "Ghost," mixed with gymnastics and contortions.

Seated at a table directly in front of the big screen at the Bayview Inn on Jan. 5, watching themselves perform, were the 18 girls, one boy and three coaches who make up Shore Thing.

The troupe are all members of the Jersey Cape Dance & Gymnastics Academy competition team, owned by Stina Smith, one of the three coaches and dance choreographer of "Shore Thing." Smith's daughter, Kendra Heminway, and sister, Annika Nash, also coach the troupe.

The 19 dancers hail from all over the county, including Lower Township, Middle Township, Wildwoods, Dennisville and the Ocean City.

They are Taylor Magill, 7, Abby Nagel, 8, Katya Simonsen, 9, Ava Landis, 10, Maxine Marshall, 10, Jamie Marshall, 14, Hannah Lamey,15, Ashley Lamey, 12, Georgia Papamarkus, 8, Hannah Kelleher, 9, Michael Holmes, 12, Veronica Holmes, 14, Victoria Jacoby, 13 and Paige Adams, 13, of Lower Township; Shayla Marks, 16, and Regan Frame, 10 of Middle Township; Tiffany DePaul, 15, of Wildwood Crest; Sara Nichols, 17, of Ocean City and Kaylee Clayburn, 12, of Dennis Township.

As soon as the judges gave Shore Thing the thumbs up and a ticket to Hollywood, the room exploded with cheers and congratulations. The troupe, who already knew the outcome but were sworn to secrecy, waved their hands in the air wooing and screaming.

"We feel like superstars," Veronica Holmes, said. "Everyone has been so supportive of us. Everyone at school is like, 'We watched the show. You guys looked great.'"

Smith agreed. "The community has been amazing" she said, as she looked around the room at the more than 200 Bayview Inn attendees, who were asked to $25 to the troupe for the "Live to Dance" viewing party to donate $25 to help deter the cost of going Hollywood.

Tonight at 8 p,m., 'Live to Dance' will air once again, with six of the 18 semifinalists competing for a spot in the finals. Over the next three episodes, all of the 18 acts will have a chance to earn one of two spots per episode in the finals.

Shore Thing is asking for the community to tune in and vote for them by calling the number on the screen after the showing.

"The judges will choose one finalist and you will choose one finalists," Smith said.

"We need your votes now," Nichols said.

Contact Elisa Lala:

609-463-6713