Kent teen from Allegro takes international online dance title

Kent’s Marie Spieldenner’s exceptional skills were rewarded when she captured the teen jazz solo division in a worldwide online dance competition.  - Courtesy photo
Kent’s Marie Spieldenner’s exceptional skills were rewarded when she captured the teen jazz solo division in a worldwide online dance competition.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

An online dance competition was something Marie Spieldenner and her family had never heard of before. Nonetheless, she decided to enter it.

"It's a chance to be judged again and also to continue to create exposure for yourself," said Spieldenner's mom, Carolyn.

Come to find out for the Allegro Performing Arts Academy dancer, the combination of dance and the Internet unfolded into a new platform where her talents could be displayed for all the world to see.

And from the results, the 14-year-old Kent girl made a great impression, winning her division in Dance Upon a Dream (DUAD), a new online competition created by Josh Horner, a judge on "Dancing with the Stars Australia" and choreographic consultant for Disney.

"We create a hub, a vibe, an experience," Horner said of the contest. "It's exactly what performing is all about – sharing your gifts with the world."

To enter, Horner had families put to use the performance DVDs most buy after competitions.

"I thought why not use their videos to compete against each other and have it judged by all the superstars of the dance world," Horner said.

This simple vision exploded into a worldwide competition when Horner received more than 200 submissions from throughout the globe.

Unlike most dance competitions where judges make the final calls, Horner implemented an online popular vote portion, encouraging everyone to vote for their favorite performances via the DUAD website.

Knowing this would help push her to center stage, Spieldenner got to work spreading the word.

"Of course, I was on Facebook trying to tell everyone, 'Please vote for me please,' all around school," Spieldenner said. "My cousins texted me and they're like, 'I sent a message to almost half of my contacts telling them to vote.'"

Accounting for only 20 percent of the overall score, it wasn't just the popular vote that helped Spieldenner win the teen jazz solo division. Her extensive background in dance shone a unique spotlight on her performance that caught the judges' eyes.

Spieldenner has 11 years of dance experience under her belt. She won the Allegro Performing Arts Academy choreography competition two years in a row and finished 11th at the 2012 nationals last summer, in addition to a multitude of other dance accomplishments.

So when she saw her choreographer Gina Starbuck announce on Facebook that she was judging a new, online competition, Spieldenner saw another opportunity for growth.

"It was exciting," Spieldenner said. "It was great to get that recognition. It's one more thing to put on my resume."

Horner announced the winners through email notices and on a DUAD webcast. For Horner, the online engagement is something to be embraced and used to a dancer's advantage.

"We are driven by social media and share our experiences and talents online," Horner said. "As we say in our mission statement, 'Let the world know you're here.'"

Dance isn't just an extracurricular activity for Spieldenner. Winning her division title for DUAD brings her one step closer to her overall goals as a dancer and future choreographer.

"Dance is basically my whole life, but it's worth it," Spieldenner said.

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