The West Texas A&M University Dance Department is home to the WTAMU Dance Academy. This past year the Dance Academy started its first ever competition team that has flourished through the Dance Academy at WTAMU.
The WT Dance Academy is a dance school for children ages three to 18 offering classes in Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Musical Theater, Hip Hop, Cheer/Pom, Modern, Tumbling and Boys only Hip Hop. The Dance Academy has been operating at WTAMU for more than 20 years and was originally started under the direction of past Dance Department Director Neil Hess and graduate student Tico Cook. When the Dance Academy originally opened it was one of the only dance studios in the Canyon/Amarillo area and was home to more than 75 students in its first few years.
“Being the director of the program has been such a wonderful experience that has taught me how to balance life and work,” Jenessa Hauschildt, current director of the Dance Academy said.
From its start the Dance Academy has been run and directed by students. Each year the Dance Academy posts Teacher positions allowing any and all dance majors the opportunity to become a dance teacher within the academy. All applicants are selected by the Academy director and director of the dance department.
Since the start of the program, the Dance Academy was a recreation only studio, meaning that the studio only had a Christmas and a spring recital, demonstrating what the students had learned during the year. The Competition dance team, however, travels to compete against other studios from Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. The team competes in solo and group numbers, and the scores are based off of technique, costumes and showmanship. The showmanship is based off of energy, smile, and togetherness. Once the scores are received they are given titles like Gold High Gold and Platinum, which are then compared for the overall scores.
“The girls that competed were specially selected from the Dance Academy here in West Texas A&M University,” Hauschildt, co-director of the Dance Academy, said. “The six girls range from 10-18 years old for those who were able to compete this year.”
The Dance Competition Team competed on Feb. 22, March 8 and April 12in Oklahoma City and Amarillo this year with songs chosen and choreographed by WTAMU dance students.
“As one of the choreographers, I was very excited as I saw how much the girls I taught grew this year,” Cindy Marquez, senior Dance major, said. “We began meeting once a week and soon changed to twice a week the closer the competitions were.”
“This was a full commitment the girls competing had to make this year as they were going to have to put the time into it to get the routine right for the judges,” Leslie Williams, director of the Dance program and faculty ddvisor for the Dance Academy, said. Six girls participated in the competitions and received many awards for their performances.
“I am so proud of the girls since I watched them grow through each competition,” Leah Archer, sophomore Dance major and teacher for the Dance Academy, said. “There was this overwhelming feeling I felt every time they performed. It was truly remarkable to see how much they accomplished this year only.”
The team looks forward to another competition season next year.
“Our planning is starting now as we would like more and more girls to be a part of this Competition Team,” Hauschildt said.
“I would like to see a different age range and more solos and group dancing performances. Perhaps a duet to help improve these young girls’ talents,” Archer said.
The WT Dance Academy will preform their annual recital on May 3at the recital hall in Mary Moody Northen Hall at 2 p.m.