MARSHALL - Southwest School of Dance director Charlotte Wendel said the hardest thing about dance is finding good music.
And she and her students discovered some good music, which included numbers from "The Addams Family" to a piece from "Glee."
The Southwest School of Dance recently participated in regional competition in Omaha, Neb. The school earned 14 first-place awards and seven second- place awards from a total of 26 dances entered.
Photo courtesy of Rashell Thordson
Claire Anderson, Michaella McKenzie, Isaac Marks and Emma Thordson perform “Memories”?at regional competition Nov. 9-11 in Omaha, Neb.
Six girls qualified in the Dancer of the Year program - Isabelle Tomeson in Petit; Allie Bottelberghe, Elizabeth Louwagie and Sophie Louwagie in Junior and Claire Anderson and Rebekah Criquet-Danielson in Senior.
As with most competitions, the nerves were high, the girls said, whether you were new to the competitive stage or a seasoned veteran. For example, Omaha was the first-ever competition for Kestlyn Willert and Lexie Dulas.
"You get kind of nervous," Willert said. "(But) once you get onstage, you let it all out when you're dancingyou feel like you forgot the dance until you're onstage."
"Walking into it for the first time was chaotic," Dulas said.
"Me and Keelin (Louwagie) had our first solos, and that was pretty intense," Alexis Baynard said. Baynard noted how the other girls in the competition were amazing. "You want to be just like them."
Baynard's solo was in musical theater to "Don't Rain on My Parade," while Keelin Louwagie danced a lyrical/modern piece, Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" for her solo.
"I did the 'Glee' version," Baynard said about her solo, adding that she "Be-dazzled" an umbrella for it.
Baynard said she enjoys different aspects of musical theater.
"You get to really act and make up your own facial expressions instead of holding the same pose all the time," Baynard said.
Before the competition, the dancers gave each other good luck presents, Baynard said. They would also cheer each other on during the performances.
"We really supported each other," Keelin Louwagie said.
"My mom said we looked more like a family," Baynard said.
"I think it inspired them to go the extra mile," said Wendel.
Dance workshops are also a part of the Omaha regional competition as the girls were able to take ones in a variety of genres, from hip hop and tap to lyrical and ballet.
"And they were tiring," Baynard said.
"It's fun to learn the new stuff though," Willert said.
Lauren Noriega said that one of the instructors taught her and her fellow dancers something that was like a spider crawl
SWSD's production dance to the "Addams Family" took the best costume award. Sydney Matthys said all the characters were represented, and she portrayed Gomez, while Isaac Marks was Uncle Fester, complete with a bald head. The dancers also reused coffins and tombstones from a previous season's production dance.
"It really seemed to fit the dance," Matthys said. "It was a fun dance to do, and I know Mrs. Wendel had a lot of fun choreographing it."
Sophie Louwagie and Elizabeth Louwagie said they were thrilled to be part of the Dancer of the Year competition.
"It was exciting, and I worked really hard on my solo," Sophie Louwagie said. She performed a ballet to "Bolero."
"She had the most beautiful costume," Wendel said about Sophie Louwagie's costume for the Spanish-themed dance.
Elizabeth Louwagie performed a modern dance for her solo.
"I had (practiced) every day," Elizabeth Louwagie said.
Wendel said her dancers pushed themselves with the competition.
"They did some challenging dances that were appreciated by the judges," Wendel said. Wendel said the dancers executed their athleticism, doing such things as standing on chairs or balancing on one foot on chairs.
Noriega said she was really nervous about a trio dance she was part of - "Strange Attraction."
"Mrs. Wendel liked our dance, but not our technique," Noriega said. She said that they changed a few things about the dance during their last rehearsal before Omaha and ended up getting first place.
Despite all the challenges and nervousness, the girls said they had a great time competing at Omaha.
"It will be a fun memory to have," Willert said.
Best costume - "Addams Family"
Best choreography - Dani Gies, "Cinder and Smoke"
High score: Large group - "Sail"
First runner up high score: production - "Humbling River"
Second runner up high score: production - "Memories"
Second runner up: small group - "Addams Family"