This Nationals season, Dance Spirit followed four talented dancers from The Dance Awards, NYCDA, Showstopper, and Starpower for an inside look at everything that goes into the biggest competitions of the year. Next up? Emma Hellenkamp, from San Diego, CA, who competed at Showstopper's West Coast Nationals for the first time since "So You Think You Can Dance." (All photos courtesy KC Hellenkamp.)

Wednesday, July 19th:

We made it to Showstopper Nationals in Anaheim, CA, and I could not be more excited to start the week. I had my duo and trio today, so I knew I needed to leave time to stretch and warm up. Once I had my makeup and hair done, I started to run through my dances with Chloe and SeAnna (my trio partners), and then just Chloe (my duo partner). My trio was first. Right before they called our names, we shook out our hands and legs to get rid of all the nerves. (We did the same thing for our duo.) Both performances went well, but you could tell the nerves were there because they were our first dances of the week. Overall, it was a great first night! We topped it off by dancing to a band in Downtown Disney and watching Wonder Woman in the Disney movie theater.


Thursday, July 20th:

I had no dances on Thursday, which is strange because that doesn't normally happen. That meant I got to support my friends and hang out at the pool! My friends and I cheered on all the junior soloists and then hit the pool. After about 2 hours relaxing in the sun, we made our way back to the competition for all the mini and junior groups. It was a relaxing and fun day.

Friday, July 21st:

Friday was a big day—we started at 6:00 AM and finished up at 11:00 PM. My small contemporary group routine, "Hold on for your Life," was first. It went really well and we made it into the Top 10 dance off at the final show on Sunday. Then I had one more small group before my first solo. My solo was super nerve-racking. It was my first time in the teen division, and I only turned twelve a month ago. I performed really well, and then it was off to my next solo. I warmed up for about an hour and ate a salad for some last minute energy. My second solo—a jazz routine—also went very well and I was super excited and thankful to have placed 7th overall after 13 hours of solos! Once they were out of the way, I could focus on my last group dance, "They Don't Really Care About Us." It was a large jazz routine that was fierce and fun to perform. I absolutely love team dances! That dance also made it to the closing show, which I was beaming about. I finished off the night with a 4-hour rehearsal for the opening number. Although it was long, I had a lot of fun and made a ton of new friends.



Saturday, July 22nd:

Saturday was a piece of cake 🍰 I slept in and ate a chocolate chip muffin (my favorite) for breakfast. Then I had my hair and makeup done because I had 3 large group performances. My first dance was a huuuuuge group with 46 (!) people in it. It's a very tiring dance and involves lots of tumbling and tricks. After that, I only had 3 minutes to change for my tap routine. Don't get me wrong—it was stressful but also so fun, because it was such a quick a change. My dance teachers said we performed the tap routine, "Impossible," the best they'd ever seen it. They were right, because it also made it to the closing show! My last dance was a large contemporary number, "When You Sleep." It was one of my favorite dances all year and I cannot believe that was my last time performing it. The night ended with a 5-hour rehearsal for opening number, which felt like a lifetime after this day.



Sunday, July 23rd:

Sunday was the closing show, and I could feel the stress in the air. First of all, my three sisters and I all had to be completely ready with hair, makeup, and costume in the hotel lobby at 8:00 AM (my poor mom!). Then, I had four dances to complete, starting with the opening number. I was in the opening number two years ago, and was not able to participate last year because of "So You Think You Can Dance." I was super excited to be involved in it again. I loved the rehearsals and the feeling of performing with new friends—it was a great experience. After that, it was time to perform my other dances. What an incredible day, and incredible end to my week at Showstopper Finals!


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