GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WTVF) — The intellectual or developmental disability (IDD) community is celebrating victories in more ways than one this year.
As of 2022, national dance competition Encore DCS based in Charleston, South Carolina has created a sector specifically for dancers with IDD to be included, judged based on their abilities.
The inclusive competition level is called the "Shining Star" level, and overall winners are eligible for gift certificates.
On Friday and Saturday, dance teams from three Middle Tennessee dance companies for dancers with IDD competed at the Encore DCS competition in Gatlinburg. The teams were from Backlight Productions, Move Inclusive Dance and Dancing Divas & Dudes.
With only three groups competing in the same division, performing primarily different styles of dances, all of the competitors received some kind of award.
"My favorite part of the experience was seeing the way our dancers cut through the intensity of the competition," said Backlight Productions Executive Director Melissa Smith. "When our dancers would come off the stage, they were met by so many of the young dancers in the completion encouraging them and showering them with kindness and support. In an environment where everyone is trying to look and perform perfectly, it’s wonderful to be a reminder of what really matters in the end."
Competing with Backlight Productions was Shannon Johnstone, Chandler Matlock, William Spickard, Anna Spooner and Ana-Lise Wadatz.
Matlock and Spickard performed a hip hop duo to "Coming in Hot" that won first place in the small group hip hop category and first place overall.
Johnstone, Spooner and Wadatz performed a small group jazz dance to "Oh My God" that won first place in the small group jazz category.
The full group performed a lyrical dance to "A Million Dreams" that won first place in lyrical as well as a Special Judges Award.
Dancers on the Move Inclusive Dance team were Antonio Agholor, Danelle Agholor, Patience Brown, Christina Cloutier, Qing Qing Cloutier, Rebecca Elazar, Steven Greiner, Isaac Harvill, Nevaeh, Aubrey O'Callaghan and Ella Shafer.
O'Callaghan won a first place award in Ballet solo for her dance to "Coffee," as well as a first place overall for the ballet solo category and the highest score overall in division solos.
Move Inclusive Dance team won a first place award in hip hop and first place overall in the hip hop category for their dance to "Levitating."
Dancing Divas & Dudes was formed by 2021 Miss Tennessee, Elizabeth Pistole.
Performing with the Dancing Divas & Dudes were dancers Grace Dodd, Rachel Martin, Natalie Pistole, Nicole Schwab and Bethany Stineman.
Dodd won first place in jazz solo for her dance to "Fake ID."
Pistole won first place in the musical theatre solo category for her dance to "Circle of Life," and won a Judge's Award.
Schwab won a first place in the lyrical solo category.
The whole team participated in a dance to "Try Everything" and won a first place award in small group jazz. Dancing Divas & Dudes also won the trophy for highest overall score in the division.
Encore DCS was first approached with the idea to create the Shining Star sector by the Middle Tennessee Arts and Abilities Collective, which was founded in 2020.