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HomeNHSDA Award Winners 2019

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 2018 Award Winners, click here.

2019 Winner and Finalists

To see read about their choreography and see their solos, scroll down or click here.
WINNER | Yoshi Sanders
Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School (MA)

FINALIST | Aliza Matthews
Arendell Parrot Academy (NC)

Windward School (CA)

2019 Honorable Mentions


Julia Boberg
Julia Boberg
San Marino Dance Academy (CA)

Kali Hightower
Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School (MI)

Julia Lawton
Julia Lawton
Harrisonburg High School (VA)


Megan Murphy
Dr. Phillips High School Dance Magnet (FL)

Ethan Myers
Ethan Myers
Arts and Communication Magnet Academy (OR)

Julia Rademacher-Wedd
Julia Rademacher-Wedd
Whitney M. Young Magnet High School (IL)

Claire Shubeck
Union County Academy for the Performing Arts (NJ)

Hallie Walters
SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities (SC)

Choreography of Winner and Finalists

Winner - Yoshi Sanders - Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School (MA)

"Realizations" depicts a journey to find one’s most authentic and true self. The solo begins in a lost and trapped state of mind, and progresses as I overcome external factors that hold me back. By the end of the solo, I come to realize my truest self. I choreographed this solo as a testament to the journey I have gone through and continue to go through. I developed movement vocabulary that progresses throughout the dance. The use of embellishment and repetition with some of the phrase work throughout the dance represents how although I remain the same person, I continue to evolve and become a more complex version of myself. My hands took the form of a mirror several times as a motif throughout, representing the constant self critique and judgement that can plague me. Each time I retreat back to the upstage corner, I find myself getting lost and having to restart my journey. In my life, I’ve had to overcome constant self- judgements, and judgements from society as a male dancer to continue dance. As I develop my voice in dance and become more confident in my identity, these judgements have begun to fade away. I am able to become a more confident, yet humble version of myself, therefore finding my true identity. I've learned that the path towards personal betterment and fulfilment begins from within. It was an incredible challenge to put these realizations I have made into movement, and tie that movement to a piece of music.

Finalist - Aliza Matthews - Arendell Parrott Academy (NC)
This contemporary piece, entitled Remedy, was inspired by the seven autistic children I met while volunteering as a dance teacher at a Broadway camp for special needs children. At the beginning of the Broadway camp, it was difficult for the children to speak clearly, move on tempo, and focus. However, through the customized therapeutic combination of music and movement, they sang loudly and clearly and executed every dance move to perfection. The music was their remedy. I wanted to share their metamorphosis through my eyes and movement. This work was challenging to choreograph because teaching and getting to know these students was the best moment of my life. I felt that my movement was never good enough. I was pushing myself to create a dance that would represent exactly how I felt when teaching my seven new friends. As soon as I accepted the fact that this dance cannot be as great as meeting the children for the first time, the pressure I put on myself went away. I began to focus on telling the story, and the piece came together quickly after that. A lot of my movements are inspired by the children’s ticks and quirks. For example, grabbing my dress in the beginning of the solo or wrapping my arms across my body resembles the children who were quick to fidget if they got uncomfortable. I love this piece because it takes me back to the day my life changed forever.

Finalist - Ani Rosen - Windward School (CA)

Women constantly feel that their bodies are not beautiful enough, and I have experienced this firsthand. Diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2015 at the brink of high school, my body weight has fluctuated dramatically. I lost almost 30 pounds due to my symptoms, gained it back as I grew healthier, and continued this cycle through multiple hospitalizations. I was praised by my peers for how skinny and good I looked, though they did not realize the darkness I had experienced to get to that weight. Initially feeling like my beauty was fading as I became more healthy, I began to realize as a dancer that my body was my power. To express my journey, I created this solo entitled “Body Acceptance” to bring awareness to all of the young women who have felt pressure from society to be the “ideal” woman. Because my body is my vehicle for expression and elation, I have finally grown to love and embrace it at any weight. Through my soft movements, I wanted to convey vulnerability that women feel daily as we constantly grapple with insecurity. I wanted to underscore these small movements with powerful, intricate movements to emphasize the strength it takes to defy these societal standards and live confidently. With the media’s favoritism of skinny, and overly-edited, yet stunning models, and the pressure to fit a “perfect” social media persona with perfect makeup and clothing, we must find ways to appreciate our bodies for what they are, not how they should be.