Four New Hope Dance performers celebrated a unique milestone with the program at their final concert in May.
Erin Donaldson, Becky Scheiller, Sarah Suits and Brittany Welter were 3 years old when they started their dance careers at New Hope Dance and recently celebrated 15 years with the program.
Over the years, some of the girls became close friends.
“It has been amazing,” Scheiller said. “The girls I meet at dance are some of my closest friends.”
Welter echoed Scheiller’s compassion for the other girls.
“It’s been an honor to dance with the other three girls for 15 years,” she said. “I just recently realized that we truly grew up together. I’ve loved growing up with them and watching them grow into beautiful women.”
Suits said reaching this milestone is “extra special” because she is able to share this experience with the other three girls.
Donaldson admits she was not super close with the girls but considers them friends nonetheless.
“I’m very thankful that it was the four of us together because we have helped each other through the ups and downs and I can always rely on them to help me if something is ever to come up,” she said.
Melissa Guse, the 25-year New Hope Dance program coordinator, has watched the four girls grow into young adults through dance.
“All four dancers receiving their 15-year awards are outstanding students,” she said.
Donaldson, a senior at Osseo Senior High, will attend Iowa State University in the fall with plans to major in engineering. In addition to dance, she plays hockey and lacrosse for her school and trumpet in the band.
When she is not rehearsing at the studio, she is working part-time at Walgreens as a customer service associate, attending local events with friends, going on team outings or enjoying alone time at home.
Her favorite dance style to perform is tap but her favorite style to watch is lyrical.
While she cannot pinpoint a favorite dance over the years, she remembers enjoying the dance to “Walking on Sunshine” performed a few years ago.
Donaldson said all of her instructors have had a “huge impact” on her but the biggest influence came from Guse. Guse was Donaldson’s instructor all 15 years.
She admits it was not always easy staying committed to dance with overlapping sports game schedules.
“It got stressful but I knew I would miss dance if I were to quit,” she said. “To make it to 15 years is really humbling in the sense that I was able to participate, but I’m also very proud of myself for honoring all my commitments to be able to do what I love.”
She provided some sage advice to younger girls pursuing dance.
“To any younger girls who are thinking of quitting, if you love to dance, you can find a way to keep doing it. It’s all about balance,” she said.
According to Guse, Donaldson is “pure happiness.”
“She bring an energy into a room and makes people happy,” she said. “She is a natural leader and can easily balance work and fun.”
Welter, a senior at Champlin Park High School, is attending Montana State University with plans to major in dietetics. She is contemplating trying out for the spirit squat at Montana State or finding a dance club to join.
“Or else I don’t think I will ever stop dancing in my free time,” she said.
For three years, she worked as a dance assistant at the study but now coaches soccer and T-ball for the city of New Hope and works at Playground Pals.
For fun, she goes to the gym, spends time with friends, does yoga, walks her dogs, shops, reads, writes and explores the state.
Her favorite dance style is lyrical and favorite performance in the past 15 years was a duet titled “People Help the People.”
Welter credits her instructors Guse and Laurie Dube for not only teaching her everything she knows about dance but teaching her many valuable life lessons also.
“It feels surreal that I’ve been doing something I love for a very long 15 years,” she said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else, or be with anyone else. I feel very proud to have made it this far and being able to push through and see myself improve throughout the years.”
According to Guse, Welter is a favorite among the younger dancers.
“She is fun and lighthearted,” she said.
Scheiller, who will be a sophomore at Hamline University, returned to New Hope Dance for one final year in order to reach her 15-year milestone. She is double majoring in chemistry and education.
In addition to dance, she enjoys spending time with family and friends but mostly works on a lot of homework. She also finds time to assist at a dance studio part time.
She admits she cannot choose one favorite dance from her career, but said she loved performing duets with Suits for the past decade.
“Getting my 15-year means a lot to me because it showed me how committed I could be to something,” she said.
Scheiller will continue to dance with the little kids at the studio she works at.
“To young dancers, keep dancing,” she said. “You may want to give it up, but it’s so work it. You gain so much more than learning how to dance.”
According to Guse, Scheiller is dedicated and hardworking.
“She is always willing to help whenever needed,” she said.
Suits, a senior at Heritage Christian Academy, will attend Winona State University in the fall with plans to major in movement science. In addition to her studies, she will play volleyball for her new school. She hopes to join a dance studio in Winona but if not, she will continue dancing at the gym or her house.
In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, shopping and dining out.
Her favorite dance styles are tap, lyrical and jazz.
In kindergarten she and Scheiller performed their first duet at a competition and won first place. It was one of her favorite performances and began a 10-year tradition of duet performances together. Another favorite was Suits’ last performance with New Hope Dance titled “For Good.”
“This dance was incredibly emotional and special to me and I will never forget it,” she said.
Suits said both Guse and Dube, her instructors, had a positive impact on her life.
“It will be so weird not seeing them every day, but I’m so thankful for the lessons and opportunities that they have given to and taught me,” she said. “They are both extremely selfless and it is evident to see their love of dance and their love for other people.”
She thinks it is amazing to have reached the 15-year milestone.
“I think it is a testament to my hard work and my love and passion for dance,” she said. “It’s an incredible milestone to have accomplished and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my dance teachers and dance friends.”
Suits advises young dancers to work hard and enjoy every moment spent dancing.
“I already miss it, so don’t take it for granted,” she said.
According to Guse, Suits has mastered the task of time management.
“She is still able to fully commit with her extremely busy schedule,” she said. “She is always positive and hardworking.”
She said getting to spend the past 15 years with the girls has been a blessing.
“I am so excited to see what their next chapter brings,” she said. “I hope, eventually, they will return with their children.”
Each dancer said leaving the people they grew to love like family will be the most difficult part about leaving the dance program. Some are uncertain what they will do in their free time.
Contact Gina Purcell at [email protected]