Hannah Thompson performs a leap while on stage at the Rising Star national dance competition in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Thompson took first place in the teen category and won first place in the best-of-the-best category to earn the title Rising Star.
Dance may not be for everyone, but for two local girls, it is for them. Katelyn Webb and Hannah Thompson, both Bunsold Middle School students, have been dancing together for the past 10 years and just recently the 13-year-olds took their love of dance to the next level when they both won national titles at the Rising Star dance competition held this year in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Although their love of dance is what has kept their friendship alive, it wasn’t what brought them together.
“We became friends through Girl Scouts and then kindergarten,” said Webb. “We became friends. We realized that we danced at the same studio and then we became closer through dance.”
The girls’ friendship now revolves around dance, but each had a different journey finding the activity at the age of three.
For Webb, it was just another activity to do.
“My mom put me in it and I didn’t think I was going to do it for very long,” said Webb. “I continued and started to like it.”
Thompson said she had always felt a desire to dance.
“Dance has always been something I was born to do,” she said.
With both now firmly entrenched in dance, they both share similar feelings about how dance makes them feel.
“I like expressing myself through it (dance),” said Webb. “It is a different way of moving your body.”
Thompson echoed the sentiment, stating she “likes to dance to feel.”
This year, though, both girls felt like they wanted to improve their talents with a move to a different studio.
“We started in Marysville and then moved to Drake Dance Academy (Dublin), where it is a lot more serious,” said Thompson. “I figured out this year that dance is what I love to do, so I became more serious about it.”
The move was prompted by the lack of ballet at their old studio in Marysville, which Thompson said is a building block of all dance styles.
“Ballet is very important,” she said. “It is like the base and trains you for the bigger moves for when you do jazz or contemporary.
“It helps train you to point your toe, straighten your knee or bend before you jump. It helps with muscle memory.”
The move seemed to help the girls find their preferred style of dance, which is lyrical contemporary.
It is a category of dance that pulls elements from ballet and jazz, but in the words of Thompson, “It is like telling a story.”
This year’s story was something that was important to both young ladies. Thompson was dancing for her sister, who she said had been bullied all through high school.
With that in mind, she titled her dance “A letter to the playground bully.”
“Mine was about a bully,” she said. “It is something that is very personal to me and I know that a lot of people can relate while watching.”
Webb performed a dance titled, “When your feet don’t touch the ground.”
The piece was about the divorce of her parents and being able to heal with time.
“Mine was about having hard times, but being able to get better after some time,” said Webb. “I tried to tell that story through my routine.”
Both girls were able to tell their story to the contest judges. Their performance was enough for each to earn first place in each of their categories.
Webb received first in the junior division, the Sky High Jumps and Leaps award and third place in the photogenic contest.
Thompson won first in the teen division and went on to dance in the best-of-the-best category against the winners of other categories. She won first place in that category and also the title of Rising Star.
“I was kind of speechless when they called my name for first,” said Thompson. “It didn’t really hit me until I was in the car headed home and was like ‘I just won at nationals.’”
Despite performing on the national stage in front of thousands of people, the girls said the most nerve-racking part of the entire contest was waiting on their names to be called during the awards presentation.
“That is scary,” said Webb. “I felt like I was going to break her (Thompson’s) hand when they were calling out names,” said Webb.
Thompson’s mother, Robin, said she couldn’t be more proud of her daughter.
“They brought her out on stage and after she had made the best out of three against two 18-year-olds,” said her mother. “I was thinking ‘great she got third,’ but then they called one of the others and the girl who took second had won it eight years in a row.
“They then called Hannah,” said Robin. “I flipped out. It was amazing.”
The rise to the top doesn’t stop here for the girls. Next summer, both have hopes of going to Joffrey Ballet School in New York City to further their dance experience.
“Joffrey is a four-week program in June of straight ballet,” said Thompson. “It is a very big ballet program.”
Once the two girls reach college age, both want to attend a university that offers the study of dance.
Until then, however, both will just share their love of dance together.
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