MARSHALL - This year, the students from the Southwest School of Dance have increased in the amount of showmanship and brought an exceptionally deep repertoire of dances to its latest competition.
And all of that paid off in the end.
At regional competition in Omaha, Neb., earlier last month, the Southwest School of Dance had a successful showing. Out of 27 dances it brought to the competition, SWSD received 21 first-place wins.
"We haven't done this well in a couple of years," said SWSD Director Charlotte Wendel.
SWSD also received several special awards, including the Young Choreographer Award, which went to Sydney Matthys.
Matthys said the award is open to dancers between the ages of 15-18.
"They have to be dancing with a studio or (as) an independent," Matthys said.
Matthys said her dance was called "Open Your Eyes," a contemporary ballet, and featured the trio of Allie Bottelberghe, Alyssa Ahmann and herself.
"The three judges look for emotion, musicality, transitions and costuming," Matthys said.
Matthys said her choreography fit with the music.
"My main goal was (for) my choreography to flow and connect without pause and not be awkward," she said.
As the different places were being handed out for the Young Choreographer Award, Matthys said the judges ran out of ribbons when they got to her. She said she sat back down. Then came the announcement that she won.
"She said, 'you probably want this, don't you?'" Matthys said.
Wendel said this is a first time that SWSD placed in the Young Choreographer Award competition since 2005.
"Sydney brought the banner back," Wendel said.
"It was a great last Omaha for me," Matthys said.
Dani (Wendel) Gies won the award for best choreography for "End of Days." Bottelberghe said the dance started out telling a story about peer pressure. But Gies didn't like it because it wasn't going the way she wanted to tell it, Bottelberghe said.
They kept some parts of the original choreography for "End of Days," Bottelberghe said, and kind of pieced it all together. The small group dance included Ahmann, Bottelberghe, Matthys, Amylyn Thovson and Nicole Thovson
"We kind of choreographed it backward," Ahmann said.
The dancers said they had confidence in how "End of Days" would do at Omaha.
"We knew it was going to do well," Matthys said.
The dancers said that Gies comes back to Marshall about three times a year, including two to three weeks in the summer, to work with them on competition pieces and introducing some new choreography.
"It's different," Emma Matthys said about Gies' choreography.
"Once you get used to it, it's really fun," Bottelberghe said.
For one of the first-place winning large group competition dances, "Rowboats and Paintings," the dancers noted how physical the choreography was.
"It's a really fast, aerobic dance," Emma Matthys said.
"It's like running a 5K in two-and-a-half minutes," Ahmann said. Sydney Matthys said the dance also involved big props and the use of a chair.
The dancers had a Halloween party before the Omaha competition, which was aimed to be a team bonding experience for the veteran competitors and those going to regionals for the first time.
"It helped little girls be more comfortable," said Sophie Louwagie.
"As a team, we're really cohesive, and we're more together," Bottelberghe said.
Wendel said she thinks the leadership going on in the studio makes a huge difference this year.
"We have a bunch of dedicated people who work hard together," Wendel said.
Teen Dancer of the Year (ages 11-14) semi finalists - Isabelle Tomoson and Kestlyn Willert
Most Promising Performer - Isabelle Tomoson
Fourth high score solo - Isabelle Tomoson
High score second runner up song - "Three White Horses"
Teen Dancer of the Year - Elizabeth Louwagie, Emma Cole, Emma Matthys
Senior Dancer of the Year - Emma Thordson, Allie Bottelberghe, Alyssa Ahmann, Michaella McKenzie
Young Choreographer of the Year - Sydney Matthys
High score solo - Emma Thordson
High score second runner up - trio, "Open Your Eyes"
High score first runner up - line, "School Days"
Best technical - Emma Thordson
Best choreography - Dani (Wendel) Gies, "End of Days"