"No matter what, we all are supportive and have each other’s backs," Stella said. "They continuously motivate me and push me to be better than I was before. I love them all and am very grateful to have them in my life."
Stella trains 15 or more hours each week in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyric, Contemporary, Acrobatics and Hip Hop. Her titles include Miss Teen Starquest and the American Dance Awards Dancer of the Year.
The camaraderie extends to her dance teachers — Miss Erica, Miss Lisa and Miss Jackie, who have greatly impacted Stella's journey through dance.
"They have always made sure that I’m giving my best -- whether I am going across the floor, on stage, or in a rehearsal. They are the reason why I have improved so much over the past years physically and mentally," Stella said. "They are like second mothers to me, teaching me about not only dance, but life as well. I am forever grateful for the support, encouragement and love that they continually give me."
Stella has found her art through dance. It takes away her stress from everyday life.
"I get to do what I love each day," Stella said. "Dance makes me ... me, and nothing can ever change that."
Stella is grateful for the gift of dance and loves to share that by being a role model to others. She's able to do that through a positive studio environment and support and encouragement from her parents.
Stella wants others just starting out in dance to know that 'comparison is the thief of joy.' She thinks all dancers should embrace being perfectly you.
"The more you compare yourself to others, the less happiness you will get from dancing," Stella said. "It gets easier when you get older and realize that you are a perfect dancer just the way you are."
She also advises to always work hard.
"Nothing ever gets accomplished if you don’t put your mind and commitment to it," Stella said. "Understand that your goal as a dancer is not out of reach if you put your heart and soul into it."
Featured dancers to share their top picks in dance-related categories.
JoJo Gomez, @jojogomezxo
Lexi Colvin, @focuslexi
Five Dancewear, @FiveDancewear
Superior Band, @superiorband
"The time and money they have to spend for me to do what I love makes me appreciate them and work hard," Rachel said.
She advises dancers to choose an instructor who sees your full potential and pushes you to do your best.
"Also, always go in with a smile on your face and positive attitude, try your best and have fun," she said.
From dance, Rachel has learned self-confidence, teamwork and that every 'loss' presents important lessons to help her grow as a dancer and person.
"Each one of us is special in our own way," Rachel said. "I'm the type that has to work daily on my flexibility as I'm not naturally flexible. However, I've come to realize that is just part of my dance journey. I try to remind myself of the things that I'm good at — body movement and performance — and I work as hard as I can on the things I want to improve!"
RACHEL'S PICKS: Featured dancers share some of their top dance-related picks.
Nuvo, Titans of Dance, Radix, 24/7
Ashley Massicotte, Ashley Grimes, Alex Tirado and CJ Houck-Cox
Oh La La dancewear, LA Dance Designs, AA Dance Costumes, Chelsea B Dancewear, Cosi G dancewear
Kaylee Kintz, Clay Morgan, Stacey K
Stretch it out stretch ladder
"I started by doing ballet, jazz, tap, acrobatics and choreography hip hop. Now I have learned that there is more styles like popping, locking, house, krump and breakdance," Lexi said. "I still train in the traditional forms but I love to experience new styles and look forward to becoming better every time."
Evan and Lexi are grateful to their parents, Michelle and Alberto, for their dance training and for giving them extra opportunities to audition and attend workshops.
"My family is definitely the most supportive and I really appreciate them," Lexi said.
Whether it's with a stage crew or dance peers, both have learned the importance of teamwork.
"Showing support and in return receiving that same support goes a long way and will carry over to more than just dance," Evan said.
Lexi is inspired by Evan's freestyle, tricks and breakdance moves. Evan is inspired by his little sisters ability to pick up dance choreography.
In 2017, Evan won an all-styles dance battle and Lexi performed on Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards. Evan has danced in commercials for Old Navy, Adidas, Target, Verizon and Kohl's. Lexi has appeared in music videos and was on "Dance Off Juniors," a 10-show web series where dancers learn choreography from Matt Steffanina while also being able to showcase their freestyle talents.
Still, it comes back to family.
"Aside from being on TV it was just a great feeling knowing that my grandparents felt so proud of me," Lexi said. "I will never forget that experience and look forward to doing more performances like that again."
" It was very hard, but humbling at the same time. It grew my character, and it gave me a unique perspective to help dancers in the future going through similar circumstances," she said. "After my injury, i realized and understood that dance is not all about winning sashes and crowns, but about telling a story through my movement and never taking it for granted."
Last season, she was asked to assist with teaching tap to younger students at Spisak Dance Academy, where she trains. She loved having the opportunity to inspire them and become a role model.
"I know that God gave me a gift. I hope to always honor Him through my dancing, and to never take my talent for granted," Annabelle said. "I hope to always point people to Him, on stage and in life."
Sara says that one of her greatest lessons learned from dance is humility.
"We can all learn from each other and no one is perfect," she says.
She encourages others to always work hard and to never give up.
In 2018, Sara won first overall as a junior soloist at two competitions and earned a National title with NRG Dance Project.
"Do what you love. Love what you do," Sara said.
Besides teaching her many life lessons, it's also introduced Trisha to many unique opportunities.
"I have been fortunate to model dancewear for the United Dance Merchants of America (UDMA) Dance Resource and Costume Show, America's largest gathering of dance vendors and industry leaders," Trisha said. "I recently was filmed in soon-to-be-released Sugarlulu videos where I was one of the principal dancers."
Because of dance, Trisha also developed awareness of the "I'm a Dancer Against Cancer" campaign. In lieu of birthday gifts, she asked her friends and family to donate to various cancer organizations.
"Also, I feel that dance has fostered my kindness. It angers me when people are critical of others when they are doing something that they love," Trisha said. "We should be supportive of each other. Personal growth requires giving."
She is grateful, not only for her physical strength, but also her emotional strength.
"Emotional success has given me the power of compassion and pride," she said.
Dance has allowed Kayla to become more confident and independent. She has had opportunities to meet many new friends, and has been inspired by countless professionals along the way. As opportunities come her way, she is learning to embrace them even though they may make her nervous.
Her talent and bravery shines. This past dance season as a new soloist in the Junior Division at Showstoppers East Coast, Kayla placed 8th overall out of 115 other dancers.
As she continues to work on her dance goals, she dreams of being able to help those with special needs have the opportunity to dance.
Dance has also taught her to never give up. She's grateful for every opportunity, because she learns and grows from them. She was able to audition for a Tiffany & Co. commercial with Elle Fanning. Even though she didn't book the commercial, she cherishes the opportunity she had to audition.
Emmie is a part of an award-winning competition team and RAVE Dance Complex. This past dance season, her solo, trio and four team dances won first place overall in several competitions.
Despite being born with discoid meniscus, a wedge-shaped piece of cartilage that sits in between the bones of the knee, Abigail landed her dream role as Clara with The Ballet Academy of Moses Lake. Over the years, she also grew as a competitive dancer and began assisting with dance lessons for the younger dancers at her studio.
Just one week before Nationals, her meniscus started to dislocate.
"I had to sit out of two dances and reverse a solo fifteen minutes prior to performing to compensate the injury," she said. "I was lucky to have the support of my family, teachers, teammates and my surgeon to help me get through this year."
Last September, Abigail had surgery to correct the birth defect and has had two other surgeries since. She remains positive and looks forward to completing physical therapy and returning to dance. She keeps her hopes up and relies on the special bonds created through dance.
"Even though I can’t dance right now, just being at the studio with my teammates that I’ve created such a wonderful bond with is the perfect remedy to a bad day," she said.
Abigail's ability to persevere has only grown stronger.
"Sometimes it can be hard to apply corrections, or it can be hard to consistently stick with a goal when it seems like there’s no improvement," she said. "Dance has taught me that it’s always worth it in the end to stick with the plan and keep moving forward."
Anne has been dancing since the age of 10. She's previously trained at The Rock School for Dance Education and the Columbia Ballet School. This year, she's dancing professionally with Eglevsky Ballet where she is about to begin rehearsals for the Nutcracker.
Dance has provided Anne with a lot of unique opportunities, including worldly travels. Some of her best friends are from other countries. She loves the unique, focused goals that dance provides.
"Each rehearsal is a new experience and process and is one in which you learn even more about yourself and break new barriers," she said.
She advises others to embrace your individuality in dance.
"Be the best possible YOU that you can be. And I mean YOU. You can't be anyone else when you dance -- it's impossible," Anne said. "Dance is about being unapologetically you and working hard on that every day."
The thing she loves most about dance is the ability to inspire others.
"It can come from anything -- doing a step well, working hard, or being kind while still trying your best," she said. "Dance is art, and art has the power to change and influence the world."
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