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Senior Tyler Burden Wins Prestigious National Dance Award

The National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) announced Harrison High School senior, Tyler Burden has been selected by the National Honor

for Dance Arts (NHSDA) as a National Finalist of the 2021 NDEO Artistic Merit, Leadership, and Academic Achievement Award. In addition, NDEO recognizes NHSDA Chapter Sponsor, Deborah Toteda, Harrison High School dance teacher, for outstanding teaching, leadership, and guidance.

HHS dance teacher, Deb Toteda describes Tyler as “incredibly talented and truly deserving of this national award which recognizes not only technique and choreographic skill, but also leadership, and academic excellence in dance students across the country.  Tyler exhibits these qualities every day in and out of the classroom and I'm proud of the outstanding work she's done over four years in the HHS Dance Ensemble."

The NDEO Artistic Merit, Leadership, and Academic Achievement Award is one of the highest honors a young person can achieve at the national level in the dance arts field. Applicants are rated based on the strength of their technical and artistic merit, leadership, and academic achievement. Each category is assessed through a self-choreographed solo video, two essays, student transcript, recommendation letter, and resume. The award is based on achieving excellence in three categories: Artistic Merit, Leadership, and Academic Achievement.

The award is based on achieving excellence in three categories:

  • Artistic Merit: The candidate demonstrates technical and artistic excellence in dance as evidenced by performing original choreography and submitting an essay describing the intent, inspiration, and challenges of their choreography.
  • Leadership: The candidate demonstrates outstanding leadership in and outside the field of dance at the school, community, state, and/or national level as evidenced by a strong resume, recommendation letter, and impact of dance essay
  • Academic Achievement: The candidate demonstrates academic excellence with a high cumulative grade point average and superior writing skills found in both submitted essays.


Composition Analysis of "Beautifully Imperfect" choreographed by Tyler Burden.

In creating this piece, I utilized contrast, gesture, repetition, and climax/resolution as the primary choreographic tools that conveyed my intended message of uncovering beauty within imperfection.  When choreographing this piece, I wanted to emphasize the contrast between what is traditionally considered “beautiful,” or “perfect” vs. “ugly,” or “imperfect,” and how these opposing ideas can be illustrated through movement. 

I represented “beautiful” with airy, lifted, graceful, balletic movements, but chose to weave “ugly” into this movement with sharper, more contemporized, contracted movements, and considered the different sounds within the music that I felt mirrored each quality.  During the piece, gesture is used to convey the more personal elements of the message that the piece expresses.  For instance, in the beginning of the piece, there is a section where I walk toward the corner with the palm of my hand held up toward my face while I stare into the palm of my hand.  In this moment, my hand represents a mirror, or more generally, the concept of the way in which we look at ourselves, often in a critical, judgemental way, picking out any “imperfection” that we can find.  This section of choreography is repeated at the end of the piece; however, this gesture only appears momentarily before being replaced by larger movements, representing the concept of embracing our imperfections and discovering the beauty that lies within them. 

Nearing the end of the piece, this section is the build-up to the climax of the piece, which is characterized by these expansive, exploratory movements.  After the climax, the music becomes calmer, and I continue into the resolution of the piece.  In the resolution, there is a portion where the music picks up and there is a fast under-beat that is happening within the music; however, there is still a sense of calm and resolve.  In this final section, I mirror the quick pace of the music with movement that feels true to me and represents a sense of letting go.  This is the resolution of the piece because it reflects my shifting mindset toward embracing imperfection and exploring the beauty within it rather than striving for perfection.

Congratulations Tyler on this outstanding achievement!

The National Honor Society for Dance Arts™ (NHSDA) is a program of the National Dance Education Organization, created to recognize outstanding artistic merit, leadership, and academic achievement in students studying dance in public and private schools in K-12 education, dance studios, cultural/community centers, performing arts organizations, and post-secondary education. The NHSDA offers three levels of induction: The Junior Program for grades 6-8, The Secondary Program for grades 9-12, and The Collegiate Program for students in college or university dance programs. Establishing an NHSDA chapter in your school is one very important way that you can honor your students and help advance the field of dance education.