Photo Credit: Chris Haston/NBC
This season on World of Dance (WOD), junior team division contestants The Crazy 8’s are taking the competition by storm. Since this team is known for their action-packed routines, crazy tricks, and strong technical skills, it came as a surprise to viewers that one of these vibrant girls actually has trouble speaking to people in social situations.
Before The Crazy 8's performed their first routine on the WOD stage, Naia Parker’s parents revealed that she suffers from Selective Mutism, a form of anxiety in which a person who is physically capable of speech is unable to speak in certain social situations or to certain people. According to Parker’s mom, she may have trouble speaking, but she has no difficulty expressing herself through dance. Dance is where she speaks.
Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC
The website selectivemutismcenter.org defines Selective Mutism as a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in social settings, such as school. More than 90% of children with Selective Mutism also have a social phobia or social anxiety. Not all children manifest their anxiety in the same way. Some may be completely mute and unable to speak or communicate to anyone in a social setting, others may be able to speak to a select few or perhaps whisper.
After the team completed their Qualifiers round routine, one of Parker’s teammates explained to the judges that their routine to Birdy’s “Keeping Your Head Up” was inspired by Parker. Since Parker is not very comfortable talking to people, her teammates wanted her to know how much they loved her and cared for her. Surprisingly, by the time the team competed in the Duels round, Parker got a wave of courage and asked to go up to the judges’ table to say hi to JLo, which of course warmed her heart and the hearts of everyone watching!
Last week, The Crazy 8’s made it through the first round of the Cut with an outstanding routine that was again inspired by Parker and her growth in the competition. Parker was showcased throughout the routine demonstrating her flexibility, her strength, and her amazing turns. The judges rightfully called her the star of the routine, and Derek Hough even said there was no need for Parker to speak because she said enough with her dancing in the performance.
The Crazy 8’s are a team of eight girls, ages 9-12, from Anaheim, CA who are well-known for winning many first place awards at conventions and competitions throughout the nation. Parker and the team train at Orange County Performing Arts Academy, which is Orange County’s leading competitive and recreational dance studio in Anaheim Hills. This studio is also home to So You Think You Can Dance winner Hannahlei Daizle and WOD’s Quad Squad.
I’ve interviewed many people who expressed that they loved dance because it’s a universal language, but in Parker’s case, dance is truly her first language. People all over the world suffer from different types of anxiety, so the fact that Parker found an outlet in dance at such an early age is truly a blessing. I really think as she develops into a young woman, dance will help her to discover herself and to know that she can do anything in life.
Watch World of Dance this Sunday to see if The Crazy 8's make it through to another week in the competition!