By Chelsea Thomas and Deborah Searle of Dance Informa.
Sometimes the best decisions are made on a whim, completely spontaneously. At least for dancer Hayden Hopkins, this is true. With only a few minutes to go in a competition that lasted more than half a year, she submitted an entry. And lo and behold, Hayden took home the top prize, being named the Ultimate Winner of Dance Upon A Dream Season 2.
“I was really excited when I found out because I entered the competition only 20 minutes before the deadline,” Hayden recalled. “But I was really excited, I mean the prizes are amazing and the judges were really cool so I was really happy.”
Dance Upon A Dream, the new online dance competition founded by international performer and judge Joshua Horner, launched last year to great success. It seeks to offer competitive dancers a place to compete on an international scale without ever leaving the comfort of their homes.
For winners like Hayden, Dance Upon A Dream truly is an unbelievable dream come true. As the Ultimate Senior Winner, Hayden receives a prize package worth thousands. It includes a return trip to New York City sponsored by Dance Around The World; a three-month scholarship to Broadway Dance Center; a complete MDM Foot Wardrobe by Muse Dancewear Movement; an introduction to six top dance agencies around the world; a unique Dance Upon A Dream onesie; and a Lifetime Membership to Star Now.
At 16 years old, Hayden is excited about what opportunities this might present her, as she is not sure which dance career path she wishes to take. Her current focus is studying all forms of dance intensely, whether it is in her normal dance classes at Westlake Dance Center or the open ballet classes at Pacific Northwest Ballet, both located in Seattle, Washington. She even started doing school online so that she could better attend dance classes and conventions.
It is this drive and passion for dance that the Dance Upon A Dream judges noticed in Hayden’s entry, a jazz piece choreographed by Nicki Loud to My Funny Valentine. With amazing extension, hyper flexibility, a lyrical grace and a sultry style, Hayden commanded attention in her performance. As a matter of fact, when she first performed it live at Starpower Nationals in Las Vegas she took home the title of First Place in the Power Solo 15-19 age category.
“This season, Hayden Hopkins was an outstanding choice of the judges, showing a sublime performance,” said Joshua Horner, Creative Director of Dance Upon A Dream. “I was blown away by her entry.”
Interestingly enough however, Hayden doesn’t spend a lot of time competing, surprising for someone as talented as she is. She explained, “I don’t really compete much. I more like to attend about eight to 10 conventions a year, just travelling and taking classes as opposed to competing.” However, she will compete in National Competitions, which is where she seems to excel. She has won first overall teen solo at West Coast Dance Explosion and the year before, won their 2012 National Teen Elite Dancer title.
Having danced since she was just two years old, Hayden now dreams of studying at The Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Her favorite styles are contemporary and jazz, and she loves taking classes from new teachers. Her ultimate choreographers to take class from are So You Think You Can Dance stars Stacey Tookey, Nick Lazzarini and Travis Wall. For now, when Hayden looks to the future, she says she just wants to keep dancing and might want to be a dance teacher one day.
The other three solo dancers that took home prizes from Dance Upon A Dream Season 2 have aspirations to perform professionally. These three solo winners are Canadian dancer Tate McRae, named Ultimate Mini Winner, and Australian dancers Ashley Kate Walsh, appointed Ultimate Teen Winner, and Madison Ayton, chosen as Ultimate Junior Winner.
Tate said, “When I won this competition I was so happy! I was against lots of amazing dancers, and when I found out I won I was so excited! This is one more step towards my dream of becoming a professional dancer. I hope to one day be on Broadway or dance in a contemporary company.”
Likewise, Madison was enthused about being named a solo winner, saying, “I’m so happy to have won. Thank you so much! I am focusing on my ballet, and hope to have a career in classical ballet in the future.”
Ashley, who performed in Annie at Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) last year with Anthony Warlow, said she wants to one day perform on Broadway. On being named Ultimate Teen Winner she said she feels “honoured.”
“This win has done a lot for my confidence and given me great exposure… I now can see that if you are willing to work hard anything is possible,” Ashley said.
And for Dance Upon A Dream judges and staff, this season of competition was no less exciting. Horner said, “Season 2 of Dance Upon a Dream exceeded all my expectations with a huge increase in entries and I was amazed at the level of talent that is submitting to the competition.”
The Season 1 Ultimate Winner, Kati Smasne, recently ventured to New York as part of her prize and was seen at a convention in which she was rewarded $180,000 in college scholarships, and “all because she initially entered Dance Upon a Dream,” said Horner.
For winners like Hayden, Ashley, Madison and Tate, Dance Upon A Dream is more than just a title; it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to receive international exposure. This is probably one reason the competition has become so popular, and not just with the competitors, but their parents as well.
“The response from parents is extremely positive, having some commending me on a competition that is really interactive, with great prizes and reputable judges, as well as a low entry fee,” Horner explained. “The main response I receive is that of thanks for giving their child a platform to be recognized internationally. I didn’t realize just how much it would change my own life in the process of helping others!”
Dance Upon a Dream and its array of world-class industry judges, offers various awards for all solo, duo/trio and group winners, and it’s easy for a dancer to submit an entry into the competition. It’s as simple as uploading a video of a solo, partner or group piece from a dance competition to youTube, selecting an age division and performance category on the Dance Upon a Dream website, and copying and pasting the video link from YouTube to the competition website. For more information, visit www.danceuponadream.com.
To see Hayden or the other three winners’ video entries, visit www.danceuponadream.com/winners-season-2.html. Entries open for the next round of Dance Upon A Dream on January 1, 2014!
Dance Upon A Dream Season 2 Winners:
Ultimate Senior Winner: Hayden Hopkins, USA
Ultimate Teen Winner: Ashley Kate Walsh, Australia
Ultimate Junior Winner: Madison Ayton, Australia
Ultimate Mini Winner: Tate McRae, Canada
Judges Choice: Aleena Tchetchenian, Australia
Judges Choice: Adele Megaro, USA
Judges Choice: Mateo Leslie, USA
Judges Choice: Aaron Lynch, Australia
Judges Choice: Juliet Frishette, USA
Judges Choice: Alaina Wilson, USA
Judges Choice: Gemma Antidormi, Australia
Judges Choice: Alex Borg, Australia
Mini – Boys Award – Jazz: Dante Arias, Canada
Mini – Duo/ Trio – Acro/ specialty: Cassie, Lexie and Kailin Brown, Canada
Mini – Duo/ Trio – Jazz: Tessa Miracle and Kourtney Leonard, USA
Mini – Small Group – Lyrical/ Cont: 8 Count Dance Studio, USA
Mini – Solo – Acro/ specialty: Lexie Brown, Canada
Mini – Solo – Ballet: Ella McMillan, Australia
Mini – Solo – Hip hop: Derek Lee, USA
Mini – Solo – Jazz: Ashleigh Brant, Australia
Mini – Solo – Lyrical/ Cont: Tate McRae, Canada
Mini – Solo – Musical Theatre: Brooke Lane, Australia
Mini – Solo – Tap: Zachary Doran, USA
Junior – Duo/ Trio – Lyrical/ Cont: Tia Buell and Alex Evans, USA
Junior – Solo – Acro/ Specialty: Alissa Eckersley, Australia
Junior – Solo – Ballet: Madison Ayton, Australia
Junior – Solo – Hip Hop: Eliza David, USA
Junior – Solo – Jazz: Bel Amadio, USA
Junior – Solo – Lyrical/ Cont: Stefanie Londero, Canada
Junior – Solo – Tap: Alison King, Australia
Teen – Boys Award – Lyrical/ Cont: Aiden Foster, Australia
Teen – Duo/Trio – Lyrical/Cont: Kyla Hicha, Dani McGinnis and Hannah Rothschiller, USA
Teen – Solo – Acro/ Specialty: Zoey Howe, Canada
Teen – Solo – Ballet: Evelyn Roberts, Australia
Teen – Solo – Jazz: Marie Spieldenne, USA
Teen – Solo – Lyrical/ Cont: Michelle Quiner, USA
Teen – Solo – Musical Theatre: Ashley Kate Walsh, Australia
Teen – Solo – Tap: Ali Sinclair, Australia
Senior – Boys Award – Jazz: Ryan Smith, Australia
Senior – Duo/ Trio – Lyrical/ Cont: Clare Billson & Tyson Almond, Australia
Senior – Duo/ Trio – Tap: Madison and Fiona Scott, Australia
Senior – Large Group – Jazz: Centre Stage Dance and Entertainment, Australia
Senior – Small Group – Hip Hop: Footclan, Canada
Senior – Solo – Acro/ Specialty: Teagan Rybka, Australia
Senior – Solo – Ballet: Liam Green, Australia
Senior – Solo – Hip Hop: Kiana Smith, Canada
Senior – Solo – Jazz: Hayden Hopkins, USA
Senior – Solo – Lyrical/ Cont: Matt Antonucci, Australia
Senior – Solo – Musical Theatre: Amanda Lowe, USA
Senior – Solo – Tap: Jack Dunne, Australia
Production Winner: Jamie Paff and Carousel Dance Company, USA
Photo (top): Dance Upon A Dream Season 2 Ultimate Senior Winner Hayden Hopkins. Photo by BOOM MEDIA, courtesy of Dance Upon A Dream.