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National dance champion joins ThunderWolf pack

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Most freshmen arriving at CSU-Pueblo this year were more concerned about doing their own grocery shopping, adjusting to campus or getting used to a fanatical roommate when school started in August, but not Shelby Aebischer. She was more focused on dancing at the Colorado State Fair. 

Photo provided by Shelby Aebischer.

Aebischer, 18, and undeclared freshman, came to the university already booked to perform at the state fair with the Anita McCoy Dance Studio, from Cañon City, Colo. The dance studio was founded by McCoy, and has been like a second home to Aebischer since she was 7 years old, she said.

She was born in China, but was almost immediately brought to America at the age of seven months after she was adopted by an American family. From there she spent the early stages of her life growing up in Cotapaxi, Colo. It was during this early part of her life where she began to develop her love for dancing.

While attending preschool, the opportunity to take ballet lessons was presented to her.  However, her family decided to move before she was able to settle in to her ballet shoes. 

This move was to Cañon City, where the Anita McCoy Dance Studio is located. The studio mainly teaches tap dancing and was the only place close to where she lived that offered dance lessons. While Aebischer eventually picked up hip-hop dancing, which she is currently an instructor in, she decided to start with tap dancing lessons and describes it as her passion.

Aebischer was a quick learner in the tap dancing world and was able to start performing for an audience just as fast. She performed for the first time two years after she joined McCoy’s dance team at 9 years old. 

Seven years later, she won her first national championship at the 2009 Spotlight National Dance competition in Branson, Mo., which is a competition that is widely regarded as the most competitive in the dance field, she said. In past competitions, Aebischer placed at the top of her age division, but this was the first time she took the gold.

The only time in her life that she hadn’t been constantly practicing was in February, she said, which is only because while driving Aebischer’s car collided with a bus in January. As a result, she suffered damage to her upper cervical, which connects the skull, spinal cord and brain stem.

“I was afraid the doctors would tell me I couldn’t dance anymore, but I was already pretty determined to no matter what,” Aebischer said.

While the doctors didn’t prohibit her from dance, they did instruct her to rest for two to three months.

Aebischer tried to dance despite her injury, but found that her stamina wasn’t what it used to be and that any strenuous work would riddle her with severe migraines.

As of today, Aebischer has made nearly a full recovery, but she has to visit a specialist once a week to work on realigning her upper cervical over the next nine months. Her stamina has returned for the most part and she no longer suffers from the migraines, she said. 

Aebischer is now adjusting to college life. She is leaning toward a degree in either history or English. However, even more so than declaring a major, Aebischer is more concerned on finding a new dance studio close to her new home as she continues her education in Pueblo.