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NMSU DanceSport team members danced their way to nationals

The New Mexico State University Dance Sport team members received the opportunity to compete in the USA Dance 2011 National Dance Sport Championship held in Baltimore on April 8-10. This was the first time the dance team has been able to compete at the national level.

On Feb. 19, the team competed in the regional competition held in Phoenix. Dance partners, Jonathan Neiser and Ariel Freilich competed in the Bronze Smooth competition consisting of the Waltz and Foxtrot, placing first and in the Silver Smooth competition which included the Waltx, Foxtrot and Tango. Their high scores led them to the Nationals where they received 4th in Silver Smooth and 5th in Bronze Smooth.

"I was so excited and so happy for them," dance coach Betty Burgess said. "They both worked so hard and are very deserving of that honor."

Leading up to the national competition, Neiser and Freilich practiced every day for multiple hours, focusing mostly on the tango routine they learned one week before regionals. Being the first members to reach the national level at NMSU, both students agree the opportunity was very insightful for their future goals.

"You just walked in and had this ambiance of, 'Wow, this is what it is like to do this professionally,'" Neiser said. "I was really both a humbling and amazing experience."

Neiser and Freilich hope to, one day, become professional dancers. Neiser will be graduating this spring and Freilich still has one more year at NMSU. Freilich will be dancing with a new partner and will be competing in the fall at the New Mexico Dance Fiesta held in Albuquerque.

"Both of them, either dancing together or dancing with other people, can just take this as far as they can go with it," Burgess said.