"You'll see talent here like you've never seen before," said Ed Freyberg, 65, who for the last 30 of those years hasn't missed one Miss Dance of America Scholarship Pageant.

"Honey, I love it," he said.

Whatever the reason, more than 1,200 family, teachers and friends crowded into the Regency Ballroom of the Shoreham last night, paying either $2.50 or $5 to see the 24 contestants at the annual pageant put on by Dance Masters of America, a worldwide dance organization.

It was the last contest in this year's week of workshops and dance practices, and it all began with the 24 dancers, ranging from age 16 to 22, gliding on stage in sequined gowns as a tape played a Neil Diamond song.

"Gotta dream, they've come to share . . ." the cassette blared from big speakers, until a combo took over as the introductions began.

"My name is Mary Noel Kleinfelder, and I'm very proud to be representing the Pennsylvania Association of Dance Teachers, Chapter 25," said Contestant No. 1. The crowd cheered for their home-town favorites, as though it were the "Tonight" show with Johnny Carson naming cities in the United States.

After everyone had been properly introduced, it was time for the Leotard Competition, worth 15 percent.

"A dancer probably spends more time in a leotard than anything else," the emcee, Ken Phifer, told the understanding crowd. Each contestant then came out from behind the gold curtains at the back of the stage dressed in a bright turquoise leotard and beige dance shoes. Each walked to end of the runway, turned before the panel of five judges and walked back.

"Dancers need to have long legs, a short body, and a small head to make it beautiful," whispered Rose Ann Sayler, one of the DMA directors, as she looked at one contestant.

"This girl has wide shoulders for her body build and her chin line is too low for a dancer," she said of another.

Next came the talent portion of the pageant, the portion on which 60 percent of each contestant's score rested.

The 24 performed a mixture of tap, jazz, toe and even an unusual technique, balletic tap.

After the talent competition came the evening gowns again, and a longer explanation by each of the contestants of her goals in life.

"In my spare time, I enjoy reading, cooking and playing the dulcimer," Contestant No. 4 announced to the crowd.

"When I dance, I speak," said No. 5, in a hot pink gown.

"If every one of us puts their best foot forward, we'll all be winners," said No. 17 sincerely.

And from No. 16: "I believe success is only what you make it, and I'm going to reach for my goals."

But the ones whose dreams came true were the finalists and, of course, Miss Dance of America 1983.

To a standing ovation, the 24 marched on stage, formed a semicircle and held hands. Phifer began with lesser awards and worked up in typical beauty-pageant style.

"And the first runner-up is No. 18, Marilyn Louise Jenkins.

"And the winner: No. 4, Maria Isabel Garcia."