For Peoria teen Natalie Frick, it seems all the years and hours of hard work and dance training has paid off.
The 13-year-old Sunset Heights Elementary School student is set to travel to the Big Apple to compete in the New York City Dance Alliance (NYCDA) national convention.
Though she took up dance classes at just 2 years old, she admitted she never thought she would make it this far.
“I always loved to dance when I was little, and so when I was 2, (my mother) decided to put me in dance,” she said. “Our studio is really small, and I never thought I would get as far as I am.”
Sharon Frick, Natalie’s mother, said the dance studio is where her daughter belonged.
“I put (Natalie) in dance because that’s all she did at home. She would just dance all the time to everything, she would make routines and she would have shows, and everything was watch me, watch me, watch me. It’s kind of interesting, though, because she is shy, but she’ll go up on stage and it’s totally fine.”
Natalie has been with L.A. Dance, a local studio in Peoria, since the beginning. She attributes most of her success in dance to this studio and its “phenomenal teachers,” who keep her coming back each year.
“We recently got a new ballet teacher last year, and she’s definitely helped with the process with our technique,” Natalie said. “My contemporary teacher has helped me dig deeper into myself and make me feel more confident. They have all helped me put myself more out there, especially this year because I was just really shy — and I still am really shy — but they just said go for it and I finally went for it. I’ve gotten more opportunities from that.”
The studio’s owner, Lora Wood, who also happens to be Natalie’s jazz teacher, has been a key figure to her success today.
“I love (Lora) so much. She’s like a mom to me,” Natalie said. “She’s really believed in me and taught me to believe in myself.”
NYCDA hosts three-day regional conventions. The first day allows dancers to compete solo. The following day, the dancers participate in a morning workshop class, while studios have the chance to compete in an evening group dance. The final day, dancers audition and partake in morning workshop classes, after which scholarships are announced during the closing evening performances. This is Natalie’s favorite part.
“I really like the program because they do college scholarships, so it’s really good for seniors and juniors in high school if they want to continue to dance,” she said.
For the NYCDA regional competitions, the Fricks have traveled around the country to Kansas City, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
In a Phoenix NYCDA competition, Natalie was chosen as Outstanding Dancer in the junior age group. This ultimately qualified her for the national convention in New York.
With over 200 dancers in the Phoenix NYCDA convention, the process to be picked as Outstanding Dancer is no easy feat.
“You learn the audition dance on Saturday, and then on Sunday you do the audition combo and everyone auditions, and they pick a certain amount of people to be finalists. You then go into another room — on Saturday you also learn ballet — and you do the ballet in smaller groups. Then you do the jazz. Then, after the audition, they talk and decide if you’re a winner or not.”
Sharon said she is impressed with Natalie for standing out in a room full of dancers.
“It’s difficult sometimes for (judges) to see everybody when there’s so many people. So, for (Natalie) to stand out, it’s pretty fantastic,” Sharon said.
Students who have competed at and studied with NYCDA have been seen on “Dancing with the Stars” and “World of Dance.” Alumni and staff have also received Tony Awards.
Because Natalie was chosen as Outstanding Dancer in the Phoenix NYCDA competition, she was entered into the Capezio Dancewear Photoshoot online voting competition. If she receives enough votes to be in the top 20, she will have the opportunity to model for Capezio in New York. This would help Natalie break out of her shell.
“I think it would be a fun experience — especially putting myself out there because I kind of hide myself,” Natalie said.
Aside from NYCDA conventions, Natalie and her family traveled to Honolulu this past May, where she decided to compete in JUMP Dance Convention, produced by Break the Floor.
According to Sharon, signing Natalie up paid off. “She won the outstanding dancer (in Honolulu), and it’s just amazing,” she said. “We really just went for vacation, and while we were there I was like, ‘Oh, you can do that!’ And then she just won.”
Natalie dreams of performing ballroom-style dances on a cruise ship, and wishes to travel the world.
The NYCDA National Season Finale convention starts June 27 and runs until July 5. Natalie will perform and compete in the junior age division.