By RENEE FITE
A dancer works out hard, like an athlete. But she’s also graceful and coordinated, and keeps time to music as an artist.
Tahlequah High School senior Lauren Walker, 17, has qualified the past four years for the state solo competition of the Oklahoma State Dance Teachers Dance Association. This year’s contest was held at Oklahoma City University, Friday, Dec. 7.
To compete, dancers have to be members of OSDTDA, and participate in a November qualifying contest.
“It’s very exciting. I am blessed and privileged to have represented Tahlequah and Melissa’s Dance Studio for the fourth time,” Walker said. “It is exciting, because it definitely gives me a lot of confidence, knowing I am in the top ranking of dancers around the state.”
Each year, about 75 to 80 dancers from around the state compete at the state solo qualifier at Sapulpa High School in early November. The top scorers, usually 10 to 15 girls, are selected to compete at state.
They use the natural cut-off in scores to determine the state qualifiers, Walker said.
“We all compete in one division. It’s not divided into classes such as 6A, 5A, like other sports,” Walker said. “Dancers from small schools and small towns are competing against dancers from large schools and large cities.”
The competition is pretty tough, she said.
“More than half of the girls at state this year, I have competed against at some point in the past few years at state,” she said. “There are a lot of talented dancers.”
Many of them train at dance studios and are members of their high school pom/dance teams.
Jenna Stocks does Walker’s choreography.
“She always does a great job on my dances,” Walker said. “I trust her, and she knows all of my skills, strengths, and abilities. She has always pushed me to do my best, and I thank her greatly for that.”
Stocks always asks for Walker’s opinions, which helps personalize the choreography.
“I can portray the correct emotions and feelings,” Walker said. “Jenna always has new ideas, and we like to experiment.”
This year, Walker performed contemporary routine to the song “More Time” by Need To Breathe.
Walker has studied dance since she was 3.
“I enjoy dancing because it is my passion; it’s how I express myself,” Walker said. “The studio has always been my home away from home, my time to calm down, my stress reliever. I always find joy in dancing.”
Since seventh grade, she’s participated in OSDTDA competitions, Universal Dance Association competitions, OK-LA Dance showcases, Company Dance competitions and a number of others.
She’s danced on the Tahlequah Middle School Pom squad as a seventh- and eighth-grader, the Tahlequah High School Pom squad her freshman year, and Melissa’s Dance Studio’s “Barefoot & Company.”
“Contemporary and modern are probably my favorite styles; I would have to say it’s what I’m best at. Occasionally, I like to do a sassy jazz number,” she said. “After 14 years, dance is what I am committed to. I truly love it. I believe it’s my God-given talent.”
She admires dancers from a variety of backgrounds.
“During the summer, I am a huge fan of ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’” said Walker. “Both the dancers, like Lauren Froderman and Melanie Moore, are famous, and award-winning choreographers like Mia Michaels and Travis Wall are amazing and inspiring. I also look up to my teachers, Meredith Coons and Melissa Curtis, and the older girls DeeAnn Amlin, Sydney Jennings and Jenna Stocks at [Melissa’s] dance studio. They have taught me everything I know. They have pushed me to reach my potential and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
Walker spends about eight to 10 hours a day during each week, preparing for competition.
Her advice to other young dancers is to persevere.
“No matter what, never give up,” said Walker. “Watch others and have fun with it. Dance is all about passion and feeling, so let your love for it show.”
She is the daughter of Jeff and Diane Walker and has one sister, Rachel Walker, an eighth-grader at TMS.