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NMSU DanceSport Company finishes the year with national titles at the 2013 USA Dance National DanceSport Championship

From the graceful smooth dances of waltz, foxtrot and tango to the sultry and upbeat rhythm dances of rumba, cha-cha and East Coast swing, the New Mexico State University DanceSport Company danced their way to the finals at the 2013 USA Dance National DanceSport Championship.

Two students dance in the Rhythm Competition at USA Dance Nationals.
Luciano Orozco and Natalie Cardenas were named Bronze Champions during Dance National Rhythm Competition. (Courtesy photo)
Four members of the NMSU DanceSport Company stand on the red carpet at USA Dance Nationals after earning the bronze and silver.
(From left) Aaron Prescott, Katheryn Baca, Brandon Romero, Natalie Cardenas, Luciano Orozco show off their medals after being named USA Dance National Bronze & Silver Rhythm Champions. (Courtesy photo)

Seven members of the NMSU DanceSport Company, comprised of 20 dance majors and minors, competed at the USA Dance National DanceSport Championship April 4-5 in Los Angeles. USA Dance is the governing body for all amateur dancing in the United States.

"They are really proud of themselves, as they should be," said Hannah Cole, assistant professor of dance and director of the DanceSport Company.

Aaron Prescott and Katheryn Baca were named the USA Dance Silver Rhythm Champions. Luciano Orozco and Natalie Cardenas were named Bronze Rhythm Champions while Brandon Romero and Baca took the Bronze Rhythm Runner-up title. Romero and Jade Augustain were named Bronze Smooth Finalists in fifth place, and Orozco and Baca were Silver Smooth Finalists, also in fifth place. John Guisto, a NMSU DanceSport graduate, and Ariel Freilich were deemed fourth place Novice Open Gold Smooth Finalists.

"It feels really great to have such success in my first year," Cole said. "I came in blind to the program trusting my instinct and abilities, and our students really danced well and deserved every win."

Although nearly all members of the NMSU DanceSport Company qualified for nationals, due to financial constraints, Cole said they chose to bring only those who placed first or second at regionals.

In addition to competing, students also volunteered at the event to better understand how the competitions are run. They ran score sheets, helped the competitors get on the floor and monitored special seating areas among other duties.

"It gave them a real sense of being a part of something greater than just our Company, and they learned a little bit about what it takes to make a large event like that possible," Cole said.

Members of the DanceSport Company also volunteer a consistent two hours a week on campus and have completed a total of nine off campus community service events this year. "The community is our lifeline," Cole said. "Without them, we would have no one to dance for, and their generosity is what has made going to competition a reality."

In order to fund costumes and travel to nationals, the program raised more than $20,000 this year through three main fundraising events including: "Look Who's Dancing," a Dancing with the Stars style program with community members; "The Spectrum of Love," a full performance of 18 ballroom, latin and swing dances; and a private dance gallery tour titled "Seven Steps to Dance! at the University Art Gallery," a colorful journey through dance in which dancers acted as sculptures that came to life in the form of dance. The company also received donations from their Tuesday night dance lessons open to the community and for hosting three social Tea Dances.

"In my first year directing the NMSU DanceSport program, I've felt nothing but support from the community," Cole said. "I am so grateful and hope to continually foster this thriving local dance community."

The NMSU dance program is the second degree granting program with a DanceSport emphasis in the United States and the only program to offer a Master's program with a DanceSport emphasis.

"We are a unique program based on quality instruction, teamwork and a creative excellence," Cole said.