Please Wait a Moment

2021 NHSDA Award

Junior and Senior high school students who have been inducted into the National Honor Society for Dance Arts are eligible to apply for this award, one of the highest dance honors program in the US. Candidates for the award must excel in all 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.

To see read about their choreography and see their solos, scroll down.


Calista ordas

San Diego Danceworks (CA)


Aaliyah Graham

Governor's School for the Arts (VA)

Tyler Burden

Harrison High School (NY)


Angelina Apicella

The King's Academy (FL)

Kylie Blake

Morris County School of Technology (NJ)

Alea Brown

Colorado Ballet Society (CO),

Emma Casertano

OCVTS Performing Arts Academy (NJ)

McKenna Goates

Orem High School (UT)

Quincy Hines

Dance Theatre of New Jersey (NJ)

Brooke Katsafados

OCVTS Performing Arts Academy (NJ)

Amanda Martz

Santa Susana High School (CA)

Olivia Miller

Gloucester County Institute of Technology (NJ)

Fiona Quirk

Morris County School of Technology (NJ)

Ella Ratcliffe

I.M. Terrell Dance Department (TX)

Dominic Roberts

Atlantic County Institute Of Technology (NJ)

Abigail Robertson

Hot Springs World Class High School (AK)

Lauren Rotante 

Colgan High School (VA)

Cailey Scholts

Morris County School of Technology (NJ)

Aleksandra Shkurigin

Queen City Ballet (MT)

Briya Simpson

North Atlanta High School (GA)

Astha Sinha

Girls Preparatory School (TN)

Jarod Smith

PAVE School of the Arts (CA)

Layla Terrell

Ballet Center of Fort Worth (TX)

Naomi Zenmon

Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 (PA)

Mia Zhang

Valley Christian High School (CA)

Choreography of Winner and Finalists

Winner - Calista Ordas - San Diego Danceworks (CA)

The title of my piece, “Are U There?” is the literal question that inspired my choreography which came about six months into the Covid-19 pandemic that plagued 2020. Lockdown, though stemming from horrid circumstances, allowed me to spend more time in my room with my own thoughts. One rough evening in particular, I came to the actualization that without school, dance practice, or spending time with my peers, I really didn’t know what defined my identity. If I wasn’t just a “student” or “performer,” then who was I? This piece represented that very search for “myself.” The concept was difficult to brainstorm, but I decided to choreograph with evolving energy, starting off with very rigid, angular, and contained movement that occurred exactly on beat to demonstrate my prior fixed mindset. Then as the music builds, I decided to incorporate wider, fluid motion that juxtaposed those sharp moves. Up to the song’s powerful climax do I fully let loose and explore the compositional elements of dance; my levels change from lofty jumps to floor work, my energy transitions from direct to indirect quality, and my choreography follows the higher-pitched shrill melody in the background instead of the steady beat I had been dancing too before. It’s in that moment I get lost in the music, happily grooving and forgetting any worries— until the music stops mid-clap and I realize that “who are you?”

Finalist - Aayliah Graham - Governor's School for the Arts (VA)

With the recent acknowledgement of the Black Lives Matter movement, I began my choreography journey specifically focused on black women. This work that I have submitted, “Surrender to the Chaos”, depicts the process of picking and choosing one’s battles. In order to avoid common stereotypes, I believe I, a Black woman, have been forced to assimilate myself heavily to European culture. I believed that by adopting their standards, I would be more included and valued as a human being. Even in this way of living, the racist acts/tendencies did not stop. I have learned that power resides in the way I responded to these situations, and I transferred this all into my work. The biggest challenge I faced when applying this experience to my piece was what movement could show the manipulation I put myself under. The use of small arm gestures shows the frequent changes I made to myself, in order to create a more “appropriate” version for others to see, while the bigger arm gestures simply show me releasing this immense amount of pressure. Another element I wanted to bring to the piece was the feeling of instability, believing I was not firm in who I was as a person or artist. This influenced me to incorporate movement that would take me off-balance throughout the piece. Overall, the time I spent towards this solo enabled me to use my artform to show a glimpse of my struggle.

Finalist - Tyler Burden - Harrison High School (NY)

The intent behind my original choreography was to explore 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 was inspired by my personal journey of recognizing the harm in perfectionism, and by conceptualizing the process of learning to accept and embrace imperfection as a process of redefining the way in which I view beauty. From a young age, I viewed my perfectionism as an asset, and it took quite a bit of time for me to recognize the extent to which this unhealthy tendency was hindering my personal development, especially as an artist. Perfectionism prevented me from discovering my authentic self, and it was when I realized this that I was able to begin growing into the dancer that I am today. I titled this piece “Beautifully imperfect” to reflect my belief that acknowledging the beauty in imperfection is a fundamental aspect of the path toward self-love. Throughout the piece, I chose to convey the process of self-acceptance over time through repetition of certain movements that become continuously more authentic to my individual style of moving as the work progresses. One challenge that I often encounter during the choreographic process is fully trusting myself and allowing myself to be vulnerable and take risks. However, reminding myself of the original intent behind this piece enabled me to lean into the process and embrace it as one that truly is “beautifully imperfect”.