New Hope High School School senior Kelsi Speed poses for a picture Tuesday morning to celebrate her scholarship opportunity to be a member of the dance team at Itawamba Community College in Fulton. Seated with Speed are: New Hope High dance coach Courtney Hall and Speed’s grandmother, Margeret Nickoles. Standing, from left are: Speed’s grandmother, Betty Duncan; Speed’s grandfather, Terry Upton; Speed’s grandmother, Sue Upton; Speed’s mother, Becky Upton; Speed’s father, Donald Speed; Speed’s grandmother, Barbara Nickoles; and Speed’s boyfriend, Spencer Duncan. Photo by: Adam Minichino/Dispatch Staff
April 25, 2018 1:46:21 AM
Kelsi Speed's first routines were for reserved for family members.
Working with cousins Alexis and Madelyn Mason, Speed choreographed dance moves to be performed in the family's living room. First, though, the dancers rehearsed the moves in Speed's bedroom and then moved the ottoman in the living room to begin their work on the "main stage."
Once Speed learned New Hope High School had a dance team, she was ready to hit an even bigger stage.
Six years later, Speed is prepared to parlay everything she has learned to the next step. On Tuesday morning, Speed celebrated receiving a scholarship to be a member of the Itawamba Community College dance team in a signing ceremony in the New Hope High library.
"My senior year is when it really hit me hard that I wasn't going to be able to dance anymore," Speed said. "It is something I really love to do. I don't know how to express it. Whenever you are out there dancing or performing for people it just brings you joy to see that. The beginning of my senior year is when I started to think about where I could go to continue dancing. I saw ICC and that it was a great opportunity."
Speed tried out for the New Hope High team in the seventh grade and has been growing as a dancer ever since. She has had multiple coaches in her time at the school and has become proficient in jazz and hip hop routines.
At ICC, Speed said she is eager to take on the challenge of working on a team that performs with the band and does more kick routines.
"It makes me happy to know I am good enough to be able to continue," Speed said. "Most people don't get this opportunity, and I am very lucky that I have gotten it. I am very proud of myself for pushing myself to be the best I can be."
Speed said she has taken constructive criticism and instruction and has worked at home to get better. She said she has needed to stay disciplined to improve without extra learning from training at a studio.
Speed remembers she and her cousins wanting everything to be the same in those initial dance routines. She said that love for dance at an early age fueled her throughout her high school career and ultimately convinced her she wasn't ready to stop. As a result, Speed said she decided to attend a tryout at ICC in which she had to learn a dance routine and perform it the same day. She was excited when she saw her name on the ICC web site with other competitors who made the team.
"I started very young, and when I got to dance it all just came together," said Speed, who recalls her first dance routines with her cousins when she was 10, 11, or 12 years old. Alexis Mason is a senior at Smithville High, while Madelyn is a junior.
New Hope High dance coach Courtney Hall, who is in her first season with the team, said Speed is a "technical" dancer who was captain of the squad this season. She said the team does pom routines with the school's band, performs at halftime of football games, competes at events throughout the region, and participates in a spring show.
New Hope finished third in jazz at the Collierville, Tennessee, event.
"She is very, very talented in dance," Hall said. "She always put in the effort to do just about anything she was asked to do and usually got it just because she put in the time and the effort. She would encourage others on the team to learn that technical stuff as well."
Hall said the team had a lot of "spotlight moments" in which individuals with technical skills received chances to be highlighted. She said Speed performed well on those occasions and did a head spring, where she stood on her head, or an aerial, in which she did a cartwheel without using her arms.
Hall hopes Speed's opportunity to continue her dance career at ICC will motivate other team members to "put themselves out there" to try new things and to work on their skills.
Speed and her cousins routinely did that when they performed for their family. She said they enjoyed doing moves to music that was "upbeat and happy and fun." She said the memory of those routines and playing music from their phones outweighed one favorite performance. After starting out playing softball, Speed's love for dance has remained. Still, she never imagined she would have an opportunity to continue to do what she loved in college. Seeing her best friend, former New Hope High student-athlete Bryanna Tucker, go off to dance in college convinced her she could do it, too.
"I thought (ICC) could be a real challenge to adventure on to something new," Speed said.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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