Born with a Gift

Andrew Cribbett won the gold medal at the recent ACT-SO competition in Florida

From Savoy Star
August 21, 2008
By Crystal Ligon

When he was in daycare, some would have deemed the now 16-year-old Andrew Cribbett a “problem child”. He wouldn’t sit still. He would talk while his teachers were talking and disobey them when they asked him to do something.

“He was all over the place with little ability to focus,” said Christine Rich of the Christine Rich Dance Studio in Savoy, where Andrew has danced for about eight or nine years.

His grandmother and guardian Nancy Cribbett noted Andrew had serious anger issues, spent a lot of time in timeout and was even kicked out of daycare.

“I was not a really happy child,” Andrew said, noting the reason for acting out was often attention seeking and partially due to family issues.

But according to Rich, even though Andrew may have had some behavioral problems, never giving up on him and his potential as a dancer and as a person helped give Andrew direction. It helped him become who he is today.

“They just kept working with him,” Nancy said. “It’s helped him with his behavior, his whole outlook on life.”

Andrew agreed, saying he’s easy to get along with now, and while he’s still a talkative and social person, it’s in a positive way.

“Dancing helped me release frustration… giving me an outlet,” Andrew said. “I love dance. You don’t always have to speak. Dance is all about body language. You can tell a story with your body… and in how you present yourself.”

Even when Andrew quit for two years after dancing for seven, he said he couldn’t help but dance anyway.

“It was something I was born with,” he said. “I couldn’t forget about my fit. I’m glad I came back.”

Nancy said that if a song could describe Andrew’s progression, going from an angry child to an accomplished dancer, it would be, “I Believe I Can Fly”.

“He did it,” Nancy said wiping a few tears from her eyes. “I get a little teary eyed. I just don’t think people realize what dance did for him.”

Nancy noted that Christine and Luciana, an instructor at the Rich Studio, pushed Andrew to be the best he could be.

Nancy said for Andrew, Rich’s Studio has been the “best school around”.

“There’s really no competition.”

“Christine helped me with everything, not just with dance but with school too,” Andrew said of his longtime dance teacher.

He noted in a testimonial on Rich’s website,, that dance helped him become organized, responsible, and to manage his time. He also noted in the testimonial that dance helped him turn his academics around too and is now an honor student.

Rich opened doors for Andrew helping him reach dancing goals.

Both Andrew and his partner Becky Ramos have competed in several dance competitions, such as Dance Chicago in Chicago and a competition in New York City.

“I’ve always believed in him,” Rich said. “I always held him accountable and helped him re-channel his energy into his dance. His self-esteem went up, his confidence went up, and he really excelled. When he hits the stage the audience just falls in love with him.”

And recently, the judges at the national Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO), which is sponsored by the NAACP, seemed to fall in love with Andrew too, awarding him the gold medal for his contemporary-modern solo dance piece.

“(At first) when I did it, I thought ‘It’s just another competition,'” Andrew said. “But when you get there, it’s different. It’s almost like the Grammies. It’s a really big deal.”

Andrew tried out for the event last year, according to his grandmother Nancy, but because of a 0.7 difference in his score at the local level he did not qualify for nationals. A score of 95 is required.

But after taking the opportunity last year to attend the event as an observer, Andrew gathered his bearings, prepared himself for this year’s competition and won the gold medal at the local and national level.

Andrew’s grandmother knew her grandson had talent, but after hearing that much of the competition was from performing arts schools studying dance, she wasn’t sure if her grandson, from little Thomasboro, attending Rantoul High School, would quite measure up.

“We (she and her husband) knew Andrew was good,” Nancy said. “But (in competitions), our opinion doesn’t count.”

If anything, Nancy thought he might take home the bronze, so when they were handing out the medals and the bronze was announced to someone else, Nancy put down her camera.

Nancy said the event was just so huge and the judging was just so strict that it was hard to know who had a chance.

“It was kind of a blur,” she said, noting when Andrew’s name was called for the gold medal. She said she was excited and proud. She said Andrew dedicated so much time to dance and now receiving this medal showed it paid off. There were 68 other people in the category.

Andrew plans to continue dancing and wants to pursue dance on a professional level after he graduates high school. He is now a junior and has a couple of years to decide how to approach his future. But for now, continuing to dance and staying positive are his goals.

“Grandpa and I think he’s pretty special,” Nancy said and then jokingly added, “We’ll keep him around for awhile.”

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