The performers, on Wednesday night, included well-known figures such as Big Blue, Mr. USU and Joyce Albrecht, wife of USU’s president.
The three judges for the event were Adam Shelton of Enlight Ballroom Studio, Krissy Fry from USU’s physical education faculty and Brenda Anthony of the “Celebrate America Show.” Shelton and his wife, Jeanne, are the founders of Enlight Ballroom Studio in Cache Valley and the coaches of the USU Ballroom Company. Although the USU Ballroom Company is more of a performance than a competition team right now, coach Jeanne Shelton said, events like these gain the company the recognition and talent it needs to attend more collegiate ballroom competitions. Fry is the founder and director of Full Circle, USU’s contemporary dance company, and Velocity, USU’s hip hop and break-dance crew. Brenda Anthony is the production director of the “Celebrate America Show” and judged last year’s Dancing with the USU Stars.
The winners, Knudsen and Anderson, danced the quickstep to the song “Friend Like Me” from Disney’s “Aladdin,” even incorporating the Genie’s classic arm and leg swing. The judges cited excellent choreography, energy and polish as the couple’s scoring techniques and suggested lighter footwork as something to improve. Knudsen and Anderson received straight nines.
Second-place winners were Kisha Diamse of the ballroom team and Eric Wynn, ASUSU senator, who danced the rumba. They received straight eights from the judges, who loved the hip action and costumes but wanted to see more character and chemistry.
Third-place winners were Kara Taylor of USU Ballroom Company and her partner Nate Royster, who plays defensive end on the football team. They danced the cha-cha to “I Need a Hero” and each had a solo moment built into the choreography.
“Your football strength showed up today,” Anthony said to Royster, commenting on the perfect lifts in the choreography and gave the couple a score of seven. Fry mentioned the nice execution of the lifts and the chemistry between the dancers when she gave them a score of 10. Adam Shelton also gave them a 10, due to the perfect lifts and their successful embodiment of the cha-cha.
The Judges’ Choice Award went to Sam Gibson of the ballroom team and his partner, Albrecht, who called herself “the First Lady of the university.” They danced the waltz to the song “It is You I Have Loved all Along.” The judges scored them straight nines for good lifts, constant smiling and no show of nervousness, a nice rise and fall appropriate to the waltz, and the use of advanced steps. Fry told Gibson he was brave for dancing with the president’s wife, suggesting – amid laughter from the audience – that if he dropped her, he might be in danger of expulsion from the university.
Other couples from the evening included a member of USU’s golf team, a track and field athlete, a women’s soccer team player, a women’s tennis team player. Becky Bylund of USU Ballroom Company danced the jive with Austin French of the golf team. They danced to the song “Grease Lightning” and scored straight eights.
Kristin Peterson of track and field and McKay Howell of USU Ballroom Company danced the Viennese waltz and scored two nines and an eight for their performance, which Adam Shelton said magnified the princess image of the dance.
Ashley Lott of the ballroom team danced the tango with Big Blue, who surprised the judges by successfully pulling off lifts without his horns getting in the way. They received two eights and a nine from the judges.
Casey Ragen of USU Ballroom Company and Molli Merrill of the women’s soccer team danced the samba, a Latin dance from Brazil. They scored two nines and an eight for excellent hip action and creative costumes.
Hailey Swenson of the women’s tennis team danced the paso doble dance with Chris Green of the ballroom team. The paso doble was invented by the French but is modeled after Spanish bullfights – the woman represents the bull, while the man plays the role of matador. Swenson and Green received two eights and a nine.
Kim Beus of USU Ballroom Company and Mr. USU Kyle Milne danced the foxtrot and received two nines and a 10 despite a slight costume mishap during one of the lifts. As Milne twirled and lifted Beus into the air above him, her long flowing skirt got in the way of his hands and face, and momentarily hid his head and shoulders from the audience.
After the dance, Milne said, “I got lost for a second in her dress.”
They recovered well and earned a 10 from Anthony, who told them, “You’ve had the best showmanship of the dancers tonight.”
After a 10-minute intermission during which the audience voted for one couple, Jeanne Shelton introduced performances by the Youth Performing Team from Enlight Ballroom Studio and by the full USU Ballroom Company. The Youth Performing Team performed two dances, a cha-cha and a hustle disco routine that it will perform next week at its first competition in Idaho. The USU Ballroom Company performed three dances: a jive to the song “Rockin’ Robin” from the movie “You’ve got Mail,” a tango to a theme from “Indiana Jones” and a Latin medley including cha-cha, samba and jive influences that it will perform again in two weeks when it competes against other collegiate ballroom teams in San Diego, Calif. Last year, the USU Ballroom Company took second place at the collegiate ballroom competition in San Diego.
To end the evening, two male and two female members of the USU Ballroom Company selected partners from the audience for a short lead-and-follow cha-cha competition. The winning couple was chosen by how loud the audience cheered for each.
About the performances and event as a whole, Adam Shelton said: “The students and stars both danced great. I’m really proud of how well the students provided their own choreography. They pulled through with some creative and technical choreography.”
Commenting on her role as judge, Fry said: “I was Simon. That was my role.”
In comment to the recent revival of the USU Ballroom Team by its coaches Adam and Jeanne Shelton, Anthony said: “I think Adam and Jeanne should be commended for bringing ballroom dance back to USU. They had some great dancers.”
The Sheltons “come to us from BYU,” Anthony said, where they met each other and where Adam performed on the world-renowned international dance team. But Anthony said their background at BYU is just fine.
As far as ballroom dancing goes, she said: “USU is just as good.”