Area dancer earns national recognition

TCR/KRISTIN BURDEY Sixth-grader Shelby Tesch of Rushford recently attended a national level dance competition held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Tesch is pictured with her medals and also footwear from each style of dance she’s proficient in: hip hop, jazz, ballet, lyrical and tap dancing.
Kristin Burdey

Rushford residents might not realize that they have a nationally-renowned dance champion right in their midst. Eleven year-old Shelby Tesch, daughter of Jeremy and Brenda Tesch of Rushford, recently attended National Competition in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a tap trio routine entitled “I Spy You” in conjunction with SG Danceworkz  & Fitness Studio in Winona, Minn.

Along with teammates Karianna Barrientos of Goodview, Minn., and Alexis Urbick of Winona, Shelby headed to Cedar Rapids June 20 to take their successful number “I Spy You” to the national stage, which due to the strength of this particular piece, was the only piece they chose to highlight.

The girls were competing in the category of preteen duo or trio, one of many divisions at the event, which range from solo pieces to production numbers featuring entire companies, in age ranges from minis to seniors. “As they announced fifth place, we looked at each other and said, ‘We still have a chance,’” Shelby recalls of the award portion of the day. “We were so happy when we were announced!”

“I Spy You” took second place, giving the girls the opportunity to participate in the Grand National Competition the next day. The group was awarded the distinction of Platinum, second only to diamond, but higher in rank than gold or high gold. Shelby pulled her most recent award out of her bag of medals and smiles, “The medal for nationals is a bigger medal.”

Ever since Shelby was a wee lass she had rhythm in her soul, something that was clear to her mother Brenda early on. “Mom saw that I was interested in music,” the R-P sixth-grader recalls. In order for Shelby to utilize her talent and energy, Brenda signed her up for a Music & Movement class for three-year-olds through what was “Gotta Dance Studio” in Winona.

But midway through that class, Brenda noticed that Shelby wasn’t fully engaged in the process, which made her  wonder if maybe dancing  wasn’t such a good fit after all. Fortunately, the mother of the studio owner saw a different perspective with her trained eyes. “She came to me and suggested that perhaps Shelby was a little bored, and maybe we should bump her up a level,” Brenda recalled. That seemed to be just what the doctor ordered, because Shelby fell in love with dance and hasn’t stopped since.

In her second year, Shelby was introduced to both ballet and tap dancing through a combination class, and it was clear that she had found her groove. “You know they like it when you don’t have to tell them to practice,” Brenda laughed. “I practice a lot on my own,” Shelby admitted. “When we’re just starting a new routine, I practice a lot. You don’t want to forget what you learn because (the instructor) does not reteach it.”

Since then Shelby has grown proficient in a multitude of dance styles, including hip hop, jazz, ballet, lyrical, and tap. Each style of dance requires different footwear, so Shelby’s bag is filled with boots, Vans, turners, and flats specific to each style. She quickly showed skill in each genre, and at age six began dancing at a competitive level.

Shelby’s dance season generally lines up with the school year, with a recital in the spring at Saint Mary’s University of Winona, consisting of one big production number and showcasing small groups, duos, and trios. Competition season usually starts in January and runs through March, with three regional meets per season. “Last year we went to Minneapolis, Inver Grove Heights, Minn., and Rochester, Minn., for regionals,” said Brenda. The first national competition Shelby ever attended was when she was seven years old, and their group took first place overall at the Starbound meet.

 In order to be eligible for nationals, an individual or group must earn a qualifying score at regional competition, plus be confident that the piece will be successful at the next level. Although Shelby was in groups that were eligible to compete at nationals in subsequent years, they chose not to attend. “Because it’s added rehearsal during the summer, entry fees to compete, hotel room stays, and time off work for parents, you want to make it worthwhile,” Brenda explained.

In some years the scores at regionals weren’t quite as high, or some of the dancers had conflicts with the dates, so the choice was made to hold off and not attend. But this year the stars aligned just right: a talented group with a very successful piece and the right dates on the calendar led Shelby’s tap trio to travel to Cedar Rapids for the Midwest Starz Competition.

 Other than an intensive workshop during the summer that focuses on fine-tuning the dancers’ skills, Shelby is now free to enjoy her summer vacation. She can be seen on stage in RASA’s 2019 production of “The Wizard of Oz” as a dance captain of the Poppy Dancers and the Jitterbug Dancers, a unique opportunity that arose because the play featured a dance troupe. She also utilizes her musical talents with the Rushford Lutheran Church Praise Team where she is a singer and percussionist.

The Tesches would encourage other interested parties to pursue the dance experience that has helped Shelby thrive. “Anything that gets you involved with other kids is a good thing,” Brenda explains “You learn so much: how to show up on time, how to rely on each other, how to work on your own time. These are great opportunities created for the kids.” Shelby has her own words of wisdom to share with anyone considering pursuing competitive dance: “Do it! It is really fun, and you will not regret it.”