To say I was impressed by the 2015 Dance Awards closing gala would be an understatement. From beginning to end, it was pure entertainment. I was a huge fan of both the opening and closing numbers and especially fond of the guest performances by the faculty. (But then again, should I have expected anything less?)

Sneak peek of the opening number–seriously, YouTube it

Every dancer there deserved his or her spot on that stage. I really can't imagine how difficult it must have been for the judges to pick a winner. That being said, we would like to congratulate those who were crowned Best Dancer.

Mini Best Dancer

Jezzaeyah Slack

Tristan Ianiero

Junior Best Dancer

Tate McRae

Murphy Lee

Teen Best Dancer

Payton Johnson

Logan Hernandez

Senior Best Dancer

Jazzmin James

Kyle Patrick Clark

We'd also like to recognize the People's Choice Award Winner, "We Emerge," by Denise Wall Dance Energy.

And after the many performances we watched last night, the winners for best performances are:

Best Performance Mini

"I Made It," Danceology

Best Performance Junior

"Lay Me Gently," Denise Wall Dance Energy

Best Performance Teen

"We Emerge," Denise Wall Dance Energy

Best Performance Senior

"Strange Fruit," DanceMakers of Atlanta

"Strange Fruit," DanceMakers of Atlanta

I'm especially happy about the senior division winner. It also won the Outstanding Technical Achievement Award, but that's not what made me love it so much. "Strange Fruit" told a really powerful story, and brought–dare I say it–different emotions to the piece and the competition. Bravo, ladies.

 

Fourteen-year-old Rachel Parkinson may be petite, but she moves with an infectious joy that fills any stage or convention room. In 2012, Rachel won Junior National Dancer of the Year at Hollywood Vibe Nationals, and this past season, despite being one of the youngest dancers in the teen category, Rachel snagged a scholarship at every competition and convention she attended, including Teen Female Non-Stop Dancer at 24 Seven and Teen VIP at JUMP.

"My older brother plays lacrosse, and my parents always tell him to leave it all on the field. When I perform, I leave it all on the stage. You’ve got to be fearless."

(Photo by Chandler Ford Photography)

Fast Facts:

Birthday: November 16, 1999

Studio: The Dance Club in Orem, UT

What she’s listening to right now: “Royals,” by Lorde

Favorite food: “Orange chicken and white rice.”

The best advice she’s ever received: “My dance role model, Alexia Meyer, told me never to leave a competition with regrets. It’s OK not to win. Don’t be a sore loser.”

The strangest thing in her dance bag: “A porcupine-shaped air freshener that smells like strawberries. My dad doesn’t like the smell of my dance bag.”

Dance crushes: Kent Boyd and Jakob Karr

Performers she’d die to work with: One Direction, Pink and Katy Perry

Must-see TV shows: “Cake Boss” and “Toddlers & Tiaras”

After just five years of training at Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Westminster, CO—only three of which were spent on the competition team—13-year-old Jonathan Fahoury currently holds two of the comp world’s most coveted titles: New York City Dance Alliance’s National Junior Outstanding Dancer and 24 Seven’s National Junior Non-Stop Dancer. Once you see him move, that’s not surprising: He has sinewy, long limbs and manages his ridiculous flexibility with great strength. But it’s his musicality and commitment to each movement that truly captivates.

"I do competitions because they motivate me to improve and force me to set goals. Plus, I love making new friends from around the country. Those are the people I’m going to be dancing with when I’m a professional." --Jonathan Fahoury

FAST FACTS

Birthday: January 4, 2000

Favorite dancer of all time: Andy Pellick. “His movement is unique—he’s just himself onstage.”

Favorite food: eggplant parmesan

If he were a superhero, his power would be: “Transporting from place to place really fast. Then I wouldn’t have to drive 30 minutes to the studio!”

Dance idols: “Julie Jarnot and Jennifer Owens, my studio owners. I wouldn’t be the dancer I am today without them.”

Advice for DS readers: “Do what you love, and don’t let anyone get in the way. If you’re being bullied, just ignore it. Stay strong, and remember: You have an amazing talent no one can break. Billy Bell, Will Loftis and Andy Pellick have really helped me see this.”

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