Western Heights High School went to the Dance NZ Made competition aiming to retain their first place senior title from the year before.

The group of 25 students not only brought home first in the senior division with their crew Genesis, but also first in the open division with their crew House of Essess, leading to them being crowned 2016's overall champions.

The competition, held on Saturday in Palmerston North, celebrates and embraces the strength, diversity and passion of dance in New Zealand.

Dean McKerras and his growing team of Kiwi dance specialists have been the force behind the initiative since 2009.

Senior dance crew, Genesis. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Senior dance crew, Genesis. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Western Heights High School students and choreographers Sherrick Martin and Steven Reedy said the win left them speechless.

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"There was certainly a lot of expectations - from our dancers and ourselves, we were really nervous about going there and making sure we held our title of first place," Steven said.

When asked why the win was so important, Steven said it was about getting people to take dance more seriously.

"Dance isn't seen as a sport, it's not seen as competitor-worthy so we wanted to break the stigma and bring dance back to Rotorua and make it something really big."

"We are both passionate about dance and I'm a real perfectionist," Sherrick added.

"We kind of had a little drama with another team so that bought some more fiery spirit to it. We wanted to go to the competition not only to prove them wrong but to prove dance is more than just a hobby, more than just kids having fun - it's something we want a future in."

Steven said for him the win was validation that his hard work was worthwhile.

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"Both of us have been dancing since primary school days so for us dancing is a mix between being a creative outlet and a passion.

"We were completely taken aback when we were named overall champions, especially given there were some hard moments in the lead-up, like losing half our crew, going from 50 students to 25.

Junior dance crew, Androgony. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Junior dance crew, Androgony. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

"To be honest the look on everyone's faces when we won was a little more satisfying than the title - it was so unexpected," Sherrick said.

Teacher in charge Te Ao Tahana-Prangnell said the students felt the pressure in the lead-up to the competition.

"They felt that pressure because they knew they were going down there with the aim of bringing the title back. But because of that pressure they worked really well and were able to come out on top."

Mrs Tahana-Prangnell said her goal was to build dance in the school.

"Dance hasn't been as popular as other sports so with Steven and Sherrick's help we want to inspire students who are too shy to audition and get involved."

The students are now busy preparing for their next competition, Battle in the Bay, in December.