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1,400 teen dancers descend on Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls

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IDAHO FALLS — If you’ve been anywhere near Skyline High School this weekend, you probably noticed girls with tight buns, fake eyelashes and make-up galore — as more than 1,400 young ballroom dancers descended upon Idaho Falls.

Skyline hosted the Gem State Classic National Youth Formation Show Dance Championship — bringing dance teams from as far away as Arizona and Oregon to Idaho Falls.

“Gem State started in 1999, we had six local teams and two from Utah and from there it has exploded,” Idaho Ballroom Academy Director Janie Fisher said. “This year we have 27 or 28 Studios. Our estimate is about 1,400 competitors this year.”

Fisher and Idaho Ballroom Academy sponsored the event.

Christine Helfrich and partner Tanyon King perform a backwards crucifix, a technical move that amazed the crowd. | Courtesy Sam Fisher

Mayor Rebecca Casper welcomed the competitors and their families in between rounds recognizing that the event has a pretty sizable economic impact on Idaho Falls.

“It’s great exposure for our community,” Casper said. “I love to see that eastern Idaho helps to lead the dance movement for young people. It’s a healthy competition, but it’s not just competition, it’s art. It demands a lot of rhythm, timing, dedication and athletic skill. It’s a wonderful thing for kids.”

High school age kids and younger competed in group routines in categories including: smooth/standard, Latin/rhythm, swing, novelty and team cabarets. The dancers paired up and competed as couples in the syllabus rounds. Judges narrowed the field down to the top seven or eight couples who then receive medals according to their rank.

Courtesy Sam Fisher

Gem State Classic also hosted the Youth National Cabaret championship Thursday night.

“There are many cabarets competitions around the nation, but this is the only one for youth. I think because nobody’s brave enough to let youth do this,” Fisher said. “We have 40 couples entered in this event which is crazy — they are doing very advanced maneuvers. There is a very intense risk doing cabaret when those girls are flying around, but our coaches are very safe and cautious to make sure the movements take your breath away.”

Alycesun Claire brought a team from The American Leadership Academy Charter School in Queen Creek, Arizona. She started the program when the school was just beginning in the parking lot of a strip mall and has since grown the program in the last seven years to include more than 850 dance students.

Courtesy Sam Fisher

She said so many teenagers are always on their phones, but when they were brought into social dance they were able to put their phones down and had more things to talk about and weren’t scared to make eye contact with each other.

“In this day and age we have lost the culture of ballroom, which is really just partner interaction and a connection. All of a sudden when they started to have this interaction with others through dancing, it was huge,” Claire said. “It basically did away with cliques. The more they danced, the more we had the cool football player dancing with the nerdy girl … and it broke down those boundaries because they wanted to win.”