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Lancaster teen dances her way to the top at state competition

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter

Lancaster's Skylar Carr has spent the past 11 years perfecting her skills in dance. Her hard work paid off last weekend, when she floored judges at the Xplosion Dance Competition in Concord on March 11. (Courtesy) (click for larger version)
March 16, 2017
LANCASTER — In her last time competing as a high school senior, Skylar Carr took to the stage at the Dance Xplosion Dance Competition in Concord, and with the grace of a seasoned dancer and the heart of a champion, she came away with a medal for her performance.

Carr performed her lyrical solo "My Little Girl" in the "Xcellerated Senior Solo" category. She earned a platinum medal for her adjudication, and received a special award from the judges called, "Great Emotion and Feeling." She then placed first in the Lyrical category. To sweeten the deal, Carr received third place overall, and was invited to attend Nationals.

Carr has been dancing for 11 years with instructor Ashley Packard of Dance Images out of Lancaster. Each of us has a way to express ourselves, and for Carr, it is dancing.

She says, "It is a way to express myself and it's a way to tell a story. I can take a song and I interpret what it means to me and I dance to tell that story. Whether it's an upbeat jazz routine where I have to smile so hard my cheeks hurt after or if it's a lyrical dance about something tragic that happened and you have to put tears in your eyes and move your body to tell the story."

Carr adds, "It's really cool to be able to tell a story without even having to talk and it's even better when someone can tell the story you are portraying without you even having to tell them. That's definitely my favorite part of dancing is the storytelling."

A look inside the mind of a dancer is interesting due to the fact that each number is vastly different from the next.

Carr says, "When I am on stage the feeling is always different. If I am doing an upbeat musical number, I am always trying to get the audience to dance in their seats a little. That's always the goal. However, when I am dancing to a lyrical song I always try to hear the story and portray that to the audience."

Carr, who says she feels like an artist while on stage, loves to portray a different style of art to the audience. This last competition season has been bittersweet.

"Knowing that it's my last year of dance — especially this last weekend, knowing that it was my last time performing at the Capitol Center for the Ars, t's definitely bittersweet," she said.

Everyone has their own mentor, and for Carr, it is Packard. Carr describes Packard as extremely supportive, and considers her to be a second mother.

"She's been with me for 11 years of my life," Carr reflected. "That's a big chunk of time to spend with someone. I currently spend roughly 14 hours with her a week at the studio. She's extremely hard working. She is always coming up with new ideas for dances and this is the eleventh year being open and she is always coming up with new, fun, and fresh ideas."

Dance comes with an athleticism that doesn't quite get the credit it deserves. Packard conditions her dancers for hours to build the muscle needed to excel and be stronger and better than the competition. Carr jokes, "She's always making us try these crazy lifts and tricks and we always doubt ourselves and then we end up nailing them."

Carr says she would not be the dancer she is today without the guidance of Packard.

Carr caught the dancing bug when she was a little girl watching her older sister dance.

"I was, like, this dorky little seven year old taking one hour of class a week, and now I'm 18 years old, and I'm there about 14 hours a week," she said. "I am thankful for my sister dancing and making me want to dance and now her daughter looks up to me and wants to dance, so it's a really great feeling."

More than a student, Carr has morphed into a teacher over the years. She student teaches alongside her mentor for four classes per week, and has been doing so since she was a freshman.

Carr says, "It's one of my favorite things. Getting to work with the younger dancers and watch them improve over the past four years is super rewarding. Plus, they look up to me and I have formed such close bonds with them. They will definitely be one of the hardest parts about graduating for sure."

Preparing to compete takes months of work. The team starts in September and competes in March.

Carr said, "We usually start getting tired and complain but after we compete we realize why we run the dances so much. Ashley put a lot of work into the dances and just wants to see us do well. The actual competitions can be hectic. There is so much going on. You have to be ready for your dance when it's time. There are much bigger studios than us every time we go."

As for her most recent competition, Carr explained, "Yesterday, I was nervous because this was my senior solo. It's my last one. I got myself stretched and ran my dance a few times. I was excited to perform because I was dedicating my dance to my Mom and Dad and they didn't know."

Carr danced to "My Little Girl," an original by Tim McGraw.

"I just danced to the lyrics and tried to tell the story of a senior graduation, and letting her parents know she would always be their little girl," Carr explained. "I was nervous because the girls before me performed so well so I was making myself a little nervous to go on. After my performance, I was really proud of myself. I remember going back down to the dressing room, and my mom was crying, and she hugged me and told me how much she loved me, and I knew in that moment she was proud of me."

There were 11 other soloists in Carr's division that day which meant they would do the top ten.

Carr's only wish was to not place 11th, she said, adding "When I received a Judges' award for 'great emotion and feeling,' I knew I had told my story. The judge asked what it was about, and when I said my Mom and Dad, she said 'I knew it!'"

Carr was elated when she received her platinum award, which is the highest you can receive. After placing first in lyrical, she knew she would place overall but wasn't expecting to place higher than eighth. With her heart pounding and sweaty palms, she waited for the results.

"I was holding Ashley's daughter's hand, and I was grabbing my friend Alexis' leg when they were calling the overalls," she recalled. "They started getting into the top five and I'm like there's no way! And then they got to top three and I'm like I guess I didn't place. But then they got to third place and I heard them call my number '417' and I was blown away."

Carr said she was overwhelmed with happiness, adding "It was honestly such an amazing moment."

After graduation, Carr plans to attend Endicott college in Beverly, Mass., where she will major in Hospitality Management with a concentration in Event Planning. To no one's surprise, Carr's minor will be in dance.

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