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HomeNHSDA Award Winners 2018

NDEO's Artistic Merit, Leadership and Academic Achievement Award


Junior and Senior high school students who have been inducted into the National Honor Society for Dance Arts are eligible to apply for this award, one of the highest dance honors program in the US. Candidates for the award must excel in all three categories:
  • Artistic Merit: The candidate demonstrates technical and artistic excellence in dance as evidenced by performing original choreography and submitting an essay describing the intent, inspiration and challenges of their choreography.
  • Leadership: The candidate demonstrates outstanding leadership in and outside the field of dance at the school, community, state, and/or national level as evidenced by a strong resume, recommendation letter and impact of dance essay
  • Academic Achievement: The candidate demonstrates academic excellence with a high cumulative grade point average and superior writing skills found in both submitted essays.
To learn more about the award, click here. To see the 2017 Award Winners, click here.

2018 Winner, Finalists, and Honorable Mentions

Winner - Fiona Thomas - All That Dance (WA)
Finalist - Ani Rosen - Windward School (CA)
Finalist - Leah Suskind - Morris County School of Technology Academy for Visual and Performing Arts (NJ)
Honorable Mention - Jada Clark - George Washington Carver Center for the Arts and Technology (MD)
Honorable Mention - Kierstyn Edore - Morris County School of Technology Academy for Visual and Performing Arts (NJ)
Honorable Mention - Rush Johnston - South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities (SC)

Choreography of Winner and Finalists

Winner - Fiona Thomas - All That Dance (WA)

A teacher once told me that everyone has their own mountain to climb. Life is about acknowledging hardships and accepting that those moments are what shape you. Recently, a dear friend passed away and choreographing Climb was a way to cope with grief, and to find relief in moments of pure heartbreak. Performing and filming this work was overwhelming. Because of the deep and powerful emotions it embodies, it felt like my mind was taking over and my body could not find its center. Ultimately, I was able to overcome this challenge by refocusing my intention and finding breath and release. My dance community has provided me with an incredible sense of strength, empowerment and hopefulness, which I hope this piece conveys. Throughout the choreographic process, my body felt like the ocean. The adagio phrase is representative of me building myself up. Akin to climbing, this was my gain of strength before another wave would crash over me. My use of repetition throughout represents the perseverance necessary to continue forward, with the setbacks along the way. Each repetition that occurs is a new beginning, new light. With each step, I may not get to a final destination, but I am breathing. I am searching for the strength that I know I can find within myself and within others to push through. Even though our mountains can be steep, there is always a way up, and a reason to keep climbing. Dance is the reason I still am.

Finalist - Ani Rosen - Windward School (CA)
I created this solo, “Perpetual Valor” to express the battle of having an invisible and chronic disease through something as beautiful as dance. At fifteen, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Though describing my experience in words can be challenging, dance is the perfect outlet to express not only my times of weakness, but also my times of strength. As I begin, I “strike” my stomach and crumble to the floor. This gesture repeatedly serves as a motif for the disease bringing me down, taking a toll on my body, and setting me back. Small, crawling movements capture the hardship of my initial time getting sick. With each strike against my body, I surge forward, building on my strength and resolve. I move diagonally across the floor symbolizing my processional movement from my place of struggle toward a brighter and stronger future. I lit my performance space with one special light to not only symbolize the hope I strive towards, but also to create my shadow behind me as a constant reminder of the disease that stays with me and my every movement. While improvisation is comfortably intuitive and fluid, I found choreographing my first solo challenging to craft my movement without being able to watch and critique objectively. Another challenge was finding a piece of music that captures the whirlwind of emotions that I face with Crohn’s, all while working in an eight by sixteen foot space using my iPad as a mirror and my dog as my audience.

Finalist - Leah Suskind - Morris County School of Technology Academy for Visual and Performing Arts (NJ)

The solo I choreographed is entitled Illuminate . The name comes from the song, Luminous, by Max Richter but it was also influenced by my brother who is the inspiration of my piece. The oldest of my two younger brothers was recently bullied at school and was the victim of an anti-semitic hate crime. My brother chose to bring awareness to the issue of bullying and the hostility in his middle school by speaking out. Through his voice, other students were given the opportunity to speak out about their negative experiences which stemmed from racism, anti-semitism, homophobism, jealousy, or just anything. By choosing to be an upstander and “illuminating” the hatred epidemic in his middle school, he has inspired our local community, the administration in our town’s school system, the students, and me. While I was choreographing this dance, I struggled with how to put such an emotional and personal issue into movement. In the piece, I perform different reaching gestures as a way to symbolize reaching for understanding, answers, guidance, and hope. By holding different positions, I tried to display the control and strength my brother showed while dealing with these issues. There is a great deal of conflict in the world and my dream for dancing and being a future choreographer is that I can help bring awareness to important issues and promote change through dance like my brother did in his middle school.