Jazz competition duo to perform at nationals in Florida

Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Natausha Weatherford (left) and Holly Testerman

A jazz competition duo from Kelly's School of Dance in Marshall recently received an invitation to show off its talents this summer at the Company Dance National Championships in Florida.

Holly Testerman, 16, and Natausha Weatherford, 14, have been practicing a routine to "Free Your Mind" for the past couple of months in preparation for upcoming area competitions. Two weeks ago, when their instructor, Kelly Thompson, received a letter of invitation to nationals and the Company Dance Convention at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort and Disney-MGM Studios, she thought, "Perfect timing."

"It's a pretty competitive routine and this is definitely a high-caliber competition," she said. "We had competed at regionals last year at Folley Theatre in Kansas City and that qualified us, so they invited us to their nationals this year."

Kelly's School of Dance qualified to participate in nationals in two ways - through the junior and senior competition teams. However, Thompson decided to work with the senior duo this year and if the juniors qualify again in the future, she'll send them as well.

Testerman and Weatherford are excited about the opportunity to compete at nationals, because it will be their first time participating at that level.

"I've qualified for nationals several times but never went because of the money," Testerman said, noting she and her partner will be doing a lot of fund raising. "It takes a lot of money for the hotel and travel too."

Thompson, who opened her studio a little more than a year ago, will also be going to nationals for the first time with her own students.

Thompson and the duo, and one of the girls' mothers, will travel to Florida for the scheduled competition and convention, which will be July 2-5. In addition to the competition, which will broadcast the top 45 dance groups on ESPN2, the dancers will perform in a parade at Walt Disney World and receive free passes to the park.

Gearing up for the event that means so much to them, the dancers will continue to practice their routine. There are already some problem areas they realize they need to perfect.

"I practice about five or six hours a week," Weatherford said. "And our flip at the end, we need to just make that work better. Our costumes are slick and it makes it more difficult to get it right."

In order to be ready for the competition, the girls know they must continue to work together and use their strengths to complement each other.

"Our technique is pretty close to each other," Weatherford said. "It's a good balance between us because she's stronger and can do a lot of the lifts."

Weatherford, who is a few inches taller than Testerman, is also very flexible, which makes the movements easier for Testerman to handle.

"They're very well matched in their style of dance so they blend, like singers, and harmonize when they dance," Thompson said. "One of the hardest things to do at this point is for them to dance and look alike. Synchronization is key and I really try to teach them to perform, not just execute. They've been really improving in that area."

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