By Barbie Porter


The Northern Lights Dance Academy in Frazee has molded well-trained dancers for years, and they recently reached a milestone.

At the Starz Dance Competition in Duluth, Minn. in March the studio swept the top six spots and saw 11 competitors from the studio in the top 25. Overall, 450 dancers performed.  

Earning accolades for the top 6 spots were:

• A contemporary duet with Alexis Osterman and Autumn Moe placed sixth.

•  A solo contemporary by Sophie Nelson placed fifth.

• The hip hop dancers placed fourth.

• Moe competed in a contemporary solo and placed third. The dance, “Glory” was an inspirational piece about someone having faith in hard times and finding good when all went wrong.

Dance Instructor Kiala Velde recalled when she first met Moe, her mother was battling cancer and the young lady’s strength and passion for dance were apparent. Through the years the relationship between the two grew as did Moe’s abilities. 

“We work together on the routine,” Velde said. “She will come in with some ideas and is up for seeing if she can pull off an idea or if gravity will get in the way.”

•  The senior elite team placed second in jazz.

• Moe placed first with her jazz solo piece.  

Velde said the solo jazz performance earned Moe a Diamond Award. She explained the award is a true honor, and in all her years of competing she only received two. Moe’s performance also earned her the compliment of being called “iconic” by a judge. 

“We’ve never done that well,” Velde said, adding the accomplishment of earning first overall had only been done once before a few years ago by a dancer in the studio.

The region competition was familiar in some ways, but the performance schedule changed. Instead of having dancers watch others perform until their time comes, the dancers did all their routines and then exited.

Velde said she missed watching other dance studios perform, but skipping that may have helped the Northern Lights Dance Academy performers. By not seeing the competition, it may have reduced anxiety or self confidence of the performers, as they didn’t have a chance to get inside their own heads and question if their routine or abilities were better than one they watched.

“We had no idea how we did because we didn’t see anyone else perform,” Velde said. “Someone came up to me after the performances and asked if we were staying for the award ceremony. I said we weren’t planning on it. Then I asked if we did good. She looked at me like I was crazy.”

Regional placers are 

invited to nationals

Velde said the studio has competed at the Starz competition for many years, and the event has grown to draw competitors from the Midwest and Canada. 

Having a competition outside of the Twin Cities is a blessing for the dancers. Velde recalled when she was competing, all of the events meant a trip to Minneapolis or St. Paul. While those competitions remain, more opportunities are available with the Starz events, such as the large-scale national competitions in Wisconsin and Iowa. 

Velde said those heading to nationals need to qualify in the regional events. With several dancers qualifying at regionals, the Northern Lights Dance Academy is now preparing for the big event. Velde said the group likes to attend the Wisconsin nationals as it is held in the popular family vacation site, the Wisconsin Dells.

The dancers will perform the routines they gave at regionals. Velde said all of the dancers started fresh this year with routines, which meant the ones they prepared for 2020 would never see the spotlight.

“We all decided to forget last year,” she said. “It was a lost year.”

So, the dancers went back to the drawing board and began creating new routines around Thanksgiving of 2020. Velde said due to the ongoing pandemic the online practices were imperative for about two months, before the dancers could meet at the studio.

Total, Velde said she taught and choreographed 30 solos. That is twice as many as normal. 

“The kids were excited to compete and I had a lot of kids wanting to do two solos,” she said.