shorthorn.gif (2557 bytes)

Youth Dance at Texas Hall

Winners, university benefit from event, officals say

by Sally Claunch
The Shorthorn staff

Elise Martinez, 8, was wearing a black spandex halter top, tights, bright red lipstick and had glitter in her hair for her dance performance yesterday at Texas Hall.

She is competing in the Starlight Productions National Finals dance competition. The company holds regional and national dance competitions nationwide, and qualifiers from the regional competitions are invited to compete in the national finals. The company awards cash and scholarships to the winners.

The event continues today from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the grand finals begin Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event is free.

The university benefits monetarily from renting Texas Hall. The university charges $1,550 per day plus lighting, sound and personnel costs. Auditorium Director Kathryn Beeler said the university cleared $26,000 from this event last year.

Judy Carroll, administrative executive director for the event, said this competition benefits the children by cultivating maturity and self-discipline.

"I believe it promotes self-esteem, stage presence and teamwork and helps them learn about winning and losing," she said. About 4,000 contestants are expected to compete.

The judges rank the contestants based on dance technique, routine execution, stage presence, choreography/music and costuming.

Elise's mother, Carmen Martinez, continuing education assistant director, said Elise has studied dance since she was 5. She takes lessons at the Dance Workshop in Arlington and does well in the competitions.

"Elise has a passion for dance," she said. "She doesn't complain about having to practice or anything."

Martinez said that the competition usually takes place in Texas Hall because it is the right size and is centrally located.

She said her daughter and 249 other children competed in the dance solos category yesterday. Elise will compete in the jazz and tap competitions Friday.

Arlington resident Michele Flagg was at the event to watch her daughter Elizabeth compete in in the solo tap competition. Flagg said she thought the competitions helped her daughter learn valuable lessons.

"It's good for dance training, self-esteem, self discipline and it's good exercise," she said.

Elise's grandmother, Mimi Gonzales agreed with Flagg.

"When you don't win all the time, it's a good lesson," she said.

Elizabeth laughed about that and said Elise never loses.

Martinez said that her daughter is very good now, but will only continue to improve with age.

"When she's 10 and 11, she'll be awesome," she said.

Carroll said the cash prizes in the competition range from $50 to $2,000 and first, second and third prizes in the solo competition come with a one year scholarship to the L.A. Underground Dance Convention.