Deb Chongway

Owner Deb Chongway proudly stands with one of the trophies her dancers won at the three-day Kids Artistic Revue (KAR) Regional Competition held at the Civic Branch Auditorium in downtown Denver on May 11-13. Chongway’s been a dance instructor for 35 years at the studio founded by her parents, the late Jacquie and Bob LePlatte.

Building youth self-esteem through dancing is the theme at Trinidad’s Dance Connection studio, located at 34442 Highway 12 in the Jansen area of town. Owner Deb Chongway said she’s always amazed at the way her approximately 70 students learn and grow by practicing dance routines and then performing them in competitions.

“I’ve been teaching dance for 35 years and I do love it totally,” she said in a Monday, June 25 interview. “I love seeing these kids grow up to be confident. That’s kind of the biggest thing, building their confidence. You want to build their self-esteem, because that will take them miles into the future.

“They can speak to people and they’re just proud of who they are, no matter how they’re built. They love themselves for who they are, so we really pride ourselves on building self-esteem and confidence in these kids. Of course we have talented students who can really dance well and that’s very exciting, but my favorite part is watching them grow in confidence. It’s really amazing.”

The students range from two-year-olds up to age 19, with an amazing 17 two- and three-year-olds in what Chongway said was her “biggest baby class ever.” The kids usually start performing competitively at age five. Dancers compete as solo performers and in groups, usually of eight to 10 dancers divided by age groups performing to specific pieces of music. Last year, a Dance Connection video performance won a national award.

Chongway teaches jazz and tap dancing, while Coach Lesley Hertzing teaches gymnastics classes, Coach Kaitlin Cress teaches hip-hop classes and Mishka Martin is the Studio Director. Students from Cañon City, Walsenburg and Raton and Springer, N.M. attend classes at Dance Connection, which was founded by Chongway’s parents, the late Jacquie and Bob LePlatte.

Casey Fredericks started out as Dance Connection student while growing up in Trinidad. He now performs in Broadway musical plays in New York City, but comes back home for one weekend each year to conduct a dancing workshop for the local kids, and helps them choreograph their dance routines. “He’s fabulous and he started with us, which is kind of cool, too.”

This year the dancers performed at the three-day Kids Artistic Revue (KAR) Regional Competition held at the Civic Branch Auditorium in downtown Denver on May 11-13. Things went very well for the Trinidad dancers at the competition, she said. “I want to say that in every single competition we were in, whether it was duos, solos or groups, we always had numbers in the top five, which is really pretty cool.”

Dance Connection kids did 39 dance routines out of the total of 636 routines performed at the competition. Dance Connection received the Top Primary Studio Award out of the 251 dance routines performed in that division. “Every year they surprise me. They’re phenomenal, amazing kids. The talent that they have is like diamonds in the rough. You wouldn’t expect that in a little bitty town like ours, but they show up when they go to a competition so we’re super proud of them.”

A listing of how the Dance Connection kids did at the competition is included below.






8 & Under Age Division

Kennedy Herrera took 5th place


9 to 11 Age Division

Laura Jo Borrego took 10th Place

Jesse Gegelman took 4th Place

Averi Scheels took 1st Place


12 to 14 Age Division

Trynity Martin took 5th Place

Kylie Wilson took 1st Place


15 to 19 Age Division

Marisa Berry took 9th Place



9 to 11 Age Division

Kaylee Walton & Mikayla Hinchley took 5th Place


15 to 19 Age Division

Adrianna and Victoria Bachicha took 3rd Place


Small Groups:

9 to 11 Age Division

“Sea Cruise” took 5th Place

“Traveling Band” took 3rd Place

“Back To School” took 2nd Place


12 to 14 Age Division

“Tiger Rag” took 4th Place

“Bell Hop Boogie” took 1st Place


Large Groups:

8 and Under Age Division

“Holding Out For A Hero” took 3rd Place


Primary Line Groups:

12 to 14 Age Division

“Man With A Hex” took 1st Place

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