The contestants of the Distinguished Young Women Tennessee state competition have been spending several hours a day onstage to prepare for the two nights of competition taking place Friday and Saturday.
A typical day sees the girls arriving at 8:30 a.m. for a day of rehearsals. Though they are able to take breaks for snacks and meals throughout the day, state competition director Kay Free said they often continue until 6:30 or 7:30 at night.
“They are working very hard,” Free said. “They are tired at the evening. What they’re doing is strenuous.”
The practices for the contestants from various cities and towns throughout the state are meant to prepare them for the various dance numbers taking place during the two nights of competition and also prepare for the fitness and self-expression portions. Contestants in the scholarship competition are judged by their scholastics; an interview with the judges; their individual talents; how well they perform a fitness routine; and how well they practice self-expression as they move across the stage.
Two choreographers, Ashley Heald and Whitney Caylor, have been helping contestants prepare this week. Heald took part in last year’s state competition, placing as first runner-up, and Caylor works for the Tennessee Youth Ballet located in Cleveland.
“They were definitely long days,” Heald said of the schedule. “But it’s been great. We’ve been impressed with them.”
Looking back at her Distinguished Young Women experience last year, Heald said she remembers the week leading up to the competition being special to her because that was when she started friendships with some of the other contestants.
Free said she hopes this year’s contestants will also have fond memories — no matter who wins.
The winner of the competition wrapping up Saturday night will become the Distinguished Young Woman of Tennessee for 2014. Next July, that girl will travel to Mobile, Ala., to take part in the national competition. Free said all the state competitors are going into their senior years of high school this fall. By the time the national competition takes place, the state winner will have graduated from high school and be able to utilize their college scholarship winnings.
Last year’s state competition took place at the Fine Arts Center at Bradley Central High School. While she said she was not involved in planning last year’s events, Free said this year’s location has been working out well.
“We like the Dixon Center because of the technology they have here,” Free said. “And there’s not a bad seat in the house.”
She encouraged everyone to support the girls by attending the competition.
Tickets cost $25 for one night or $45 for both, and can be purchased at the event. Events begin at 7 both Friday and Saturday evenings.