If you’ve ever walked into the dance studio at the corner of Wisconsin Street and Virginia Avenue in Gunnison, you may have noticed a shift in the atmosphere. Children perform choreographed numbers as proud parents look on. Other youngsters sing and dance on their own, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, smiles cover the faces of all.
Such is the nature of the High Attitude Dance Academy (HADA), which was awarded both the People’s Choice Award and the Sportsmanship Award at the Spotlight Dance Cup in Denver earlier this month. This marks the second year running HADA has received the Sportsmanship Award.
Crystal Ashe, studio owner and director at HADA, said she couldn't be more proud of her students, who share support and smiles even when the competition’s hot.
Over the course of a weekend, studios are expected to meet strict time requirements for performances, show support for other dancers and treat each person with respect. Of course, this is no small feat for a group of more than 30 dancers ranging in age from 4 to 17.
“There’s always a sense of camaraderie and everyone supports one another,” said parent Tara Niccoli, who took note of the family-like feel at HADA. “The bigger kids look out for the younger kids too.”
Younger dancers offered a ballet performance to “Everyday Princess” during the Spotlight Dance Cup. Part of the fun for the little ones is picking out princess dresses, crowns and other royal garb in which to twirl for the audience.
When asked what her favorite part of dance is, Brea Anderson said, “We get to play games and do pirouettes.”
Isabelle Bihler, who has danced with HADA for several years now, says the Sportsmanship award speaks volumes about dancers in the Gunnison Valley.
“In the dance world, it’s very competitive, so if you bring in that positive aspect it kind of lightens up the mood,” said Bihler.
Rory Dawson — notably the only male dancer in the studio — said the People’s Choice award was a total shock. Dawson has been dancing with HADA for almost a decade, and he doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.
“It was really cool because I didn't even know that was an award,” added Dawson.
Being surrounded by girls doesn't scare him either.
“It was weird at first but I’ve gotten used to it,” he smiled.
Dancer Faith Brock also was flattered by the People’s Choice Award for the group’s performance.
“It was really awesome to win the People’s Choice because we are a smaller studio at that competition,” explained Brock.
Among all the flashy song and dance numbers, it was HADA’s performance that stuck out. Veering away from the glitz and glamour, the HADA team kept it simple with a lyrical performance called “Village.”
The simple, heartfelt piece was a tribute from none other than their instructor, Ashe, who choreographed the performance on the basis of her love for all the dancers.
“It was really heartwarming to know that the message we were trying to portray got out to the audience,” said Brock. “It was just amazing.”
(Kate Gienapp can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)