OCEAN CITY - Less than two hours after this year's crop of Miss New Jersey contestants had arrived in Ocean City they were on stage learning dance routines for the show's three nights of competition.

Choreographer Gabby Kadets, of Woodbridge, moved quickly teaching the women - some dancers, some not - the steps to one of the three routines they will perform when the doors open for this year's pageant.

Outside the Music Pier a major beach replenishment project continued as sand was shifted into place, and nearby sunbathers lay sprawled on their towels or took a dip in the cool ocean.

But inside Kadets and the 23 women were hard at work.

"It's actually really not hard to work with the girls because they are so eager. They learn very quickly and are very enthusiastic," she said during a brief break in rehearsals.

Kadets, who also choreographed the show last year, said she is using different music this year and the goal is always to keep the performances "young, fun, vibrant and energetic."

The women must learn three routines in just about two days.

Preliminary competition starts Thursday night, and that's when the women will make their collective debut before the audience at the Music Pier.

The three performances include the opening number, featuring Whitney Houston's "I'm Every Woman," followed by the swimsuit number performed to a mash-up of Destiny's Child and Gloria Gaynor singing "Survivor" and "I Will Survive," respectively, and finally Frank Sinatra's "I've Got You Under My Skin" for the evening-wear portion.

Kadets said the effort this year was to include New Jersey natives such as Sinatra and Houston in the show.

"We're really trying to celebrate New Jersey and show support for New Jersey," Kadets said. "With the return of Miss America we want to celebrate New Jersey."

Kadets, like many in Ocean City this week, is a pageant fan who remembers attending the Miss America parades in Atlantic City.

"I think it's just really part of New Jersey and we're excited to welcome it back," she said.

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