Photo by Nathan Sayers

Hooray for Hayden Hopkins!

Each year, the Dance Spirit editors go on and on about how difficult it is narrowing a field of hundreds down to just three finalists in the annual Cover Model Search. And that's true—it's a lofty task that we're perhaps a bit too passionate about. There are heated discussions, voting sessions and emotional email exchanges weighing the pros and cons of every entrant.

This year, though, there was no debate over one CMS contestant: Hayden Hopkins. When we watched her video, we all knew this girl was coming to NYC as a finalist. And when we turned the voting over to you to pick a winner, you clearly agreed she was worthy of the top spot. Earning more than half the total votes, here she is, gracing the cover of this issue as your latest CMS winner.

After squealing in excitement when she found out she'd won the contest, Hayden filled us in on what she's been up to since we saw her in April.

Dance Spirit: How did it feel to find out you'd won the Cover Model Search?

Hayden Hopkins: I was walking into a ballet class at Pacific Northwest Ballet School when I saw that Alison Feller, the editor in chief of Dance Spirit, had called me—and I knew she was calling to tell me the results. I tried to concentrate on what seemed like the longest class ever. Then, immediately afterward, I ran to a quiet corner and called her back. When she told me she was calling to congratulate me on becoming the 2013 Cover Model Search winner, I felt total excitement and a sense of relief. I wanted to leap around Seattle Center! It's a memory I will keep with me forever.

DS: How did you get so many votes?

HH: I really took advantage of social media. I posted on my Twitter and Instagram, asking people to help spread the word, and I started a “voteforhayden" Instagram account that gained a good following. I also wrote a more personal open letter on my Facebook page explaining how much it would mean to win. I worked with a T-shirt business and had “#voteforhayden" tank tops made. I had picture cards printed with the Dance Spirit voting website on them, and I handed them out to dancers I met at Nationals in Las Vegas. Any time I met someone new or took a picture with someone, I asked them to vote. I really just put myself out there and tried to be honest and sincere.

Hayden Hopkins (by Nathan Sayers)

DS: What have you been up to since we last heard from you?

HH: I was a part of the Dancers Against Cancer campaign and performed in a piece choreographed by Mark Meismer at the KARtv Dance Awards and Benefit Show. I celebrated my 16th birthday in July, and I'm excited to start driving lessons when I can find the time. I worked with Emily Shock and Nicki Loud on some solo choreography and choreographed a solo for myself. I also attended West Coast Dance Explosion Nationals, where I won first place for teen solos and danced for the last time as the 2012 National Teen Elite Dancer—a title I was so proud to have. I competed at Starpower Finals in Las Vegas and won first place senior solo. Plus, I was able to choreograph a dance solo for my 9-year-old sister, who's a rhythmic gymnast. She placed in the Top 3 at West Coast Dance Explosion Nationals! I think that was one of

the best moments for me, seeing her happy and feeling good about how she did.

DS: How have you grown as a dancer since the CMS trip?

HH: It was my first time in NYC. For so long I've thought that's where I should be when I'm older—and the city was even better than I expected! Being able to go backstage at a Broadway show and take classes at Broadway Dance Center really opened my eyes. There's so much about dance I need to learn and there are so many directions I could take my career. Now I'm really thinking about my future and trying to surround myself with good people. I'm focusing on what works for me instead of following a path that will give me instant recognition. I've always been told there's no time limit on my talent and I shouldn't be in a rush to grow up. I'm finally starting to see what that means. After the CMS trip my dreams are a little closer to reality.

DS: What's your advice for future CMS hopefuls?

HH: Send in your best video—one that shows not just great technique but also an honest performance. You don't have to be with a power studio or have your solo done by a well-known choreographer. Send in something you're proud of and want to share with others. If you don't get picked the first time, don't get discouraged—keep posting videos!

DS: What's next for you?

Hayden Hopkins (by Nathan Sayers)

HH: I'm working with Tilt Dancewear on some new designs for their upcoming line, and I was approached by a convention about joining their staff as an apprentice choreographer and traveling with them for the 2013–14 season. I also have plans to assist a few choreographers, and hope to learn more about what I do and don't want to do in the future. I'll be doing online school again this year so I can travel more, and I'm looking into programs that offer college scholarships. I hope to attend New York University after high school.

I know I want to dance in the future, but I also want to expose myself to other art forms. I love fashion and creative people. I want to see the world and I hope dance will allow me to do that. But right now, my focus is making the right choices for myself while still making connections in the dance world.

I want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported me during this journey. Every vote and bit of encouragement has helped me achieve this goal, and for that I am so grateful. I hope other dancers in situations like mine were able to read my story and realize they don't have to give up on their dreams of dancing.

The Cover Model Search experience has been unforgettable, and I'm happy to have shared it with the other finalists, Alexa Luke and Madi Hicks.

To my family, thank you for the continued love—especially my mom, who sacrifices so much to allow me to dance. Thank you to my dance teacher, Kirsten, for the support over the years. And a huge thank you to the Dance Spirit editors, photographer Nathan Sayers and make-up artist Tonya Noland, all of whom made the trip so special for me. I'm so happy I had the opportunity to share my passion for dance.



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