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12:32 AM Fri, Oct. 19th

Dancer is 1st runner-up in USA-Canada contest

Courtesy<br>
Piper Stoeckel, 18, who began dance classes at the age of 5, finished as first runner-up in the Miss Dance of America pageant.

Courtesy<br> Piper Stoeckel, 18, who began dance classes at the age of 5, finished as first runner-up in the Miss Dance of America pageant.

WILLIAMSON VALLEY - Piper Stoeckel, 18, began dance classes at the age of 5 with the prodding of her mother.

"I think my mom put me into dance classes for fun," Stoeckel said. "It is just something I have always done. I love competing. I love performing. I guess I love sharing my talent with other people."

Stoeckel, daughter of Scott and Colleen Stoeckel of Williamson Valley, began sharing her talents with audiences by performing in the Missoula Children's Theatre production of "Jack in the Beanstalk" in 1996.

Stoeckel, a 2008 graduate of Prescott High School, compiled a one-page resume of her accomplishments.

She gained kudos after winning the Miss Dance of Arizona 2008 in the pageant of Dance Masters of America in April at Greenway High School in Glendale. She vied against six other girls.

She went on to first runner-up in the 124th annual Miss Dance of America pageant in July at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Fla.

The Miss Dance of America pageant is open to participants from both the United States and Canada, Stoeckel said, adding she contended with about 30 state winners.

"It's a wonderful experience with meeting new people, dancing with new choreographers and making memories that I will never forget," Stoeckel said.

Stoeckel, a slender, 5-foot-7 brunette, said the state competition lasted three days and included interviews, audition classes and a final solo performance.

The Orlando event lasted one week, and involved opening numbers with the other contestants, interviews and five and a half hours of audition classes for ballet, Stoeckel said. Judges evaluated the dancers in ballet, jazz, tap and acrobatics.

Stoeckel credits the support of her parents and the seven-year relationship with April Nelson, owner of the Spisak Dance Academy in Glendale and president of the Arizona chapter of Dance Masters.

Nelson said Stoeckel has the talent to become a professional dancer, adding opportunities for dancers have broadened to include cruise ships and theme parks. Stoeckel must be willing to move to New York City or Los Angeles.

"She has the heart, she has the soul, she has the beautiful dancer's body," Nelson said. "She has the natural ability to dance."

Nelson also noted Stoeckel gained acceptance this coming fall to the "pretty choosy" dance program at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Stoeckel said she will consider a career in dancing. However, she also wants to start a family and travel.

Editor's note: If you have a suggestion of a local person to feature in Achievers, call 445-3333, ext. 2041, or send an e-mail to khedler@prescottaz.com.