Students from nearly every high school in the state are in Newton this weekend for the Iowa State Dance/Drill Team Solo Competition. The two-day event began Friday afternoon and continues through today.

Lois Turnage, president of the Iowa State Dance/Drill Team Association, says three gymnasiums and a high school auditorium are playing host to the teen competitors. “So, simultaneously there will be four sessions of solo dance competition taking place,” Turnage said.

Around 800 contestants from 300 high schools are vying for awards after months of training and practice. “It’s very athletic and very physically demanding, but they make it look so beautiful and graceful,” Turnage said. “Sometimes people don’t realize the physical demands.”

The judges for the competition have been flown in from across the country. “They will provide each soloist with critiques and we also give each soloist a DVD of their performance,” Turnage said. “Then, we place the soloists with medalist ratings, based on their point totals, and the top 12 are trophy winners. So, it’s quite an event.”

This is the fifth year that Newton has hosted the event. Turnage says the competition is much bigger than it was in 1976, when it was launched. “The interest, the level of talent and skill…the growth has just been phenomenal,” Turnage said.

The competition is open to the public. There is a $5 admission fee that’s good for all competition locations. The Iowa State Dance team competition is scheduled for November 29-30 in Des Moines.

Randy Van, KCOB, Newton