Ryshja Foster and Alania Carter, two very passionate dancers, teamed up and took first place at Delaware Teen Idol, a competition sponsored by AIDS Delaware aimed at raising teen awareness about AIDS, pregnancy prevention, substance abuse and physical abuse.
AIDS Delaware asked contestants to deliver positive messages through poetry, rap, songs or dance, in the hope that familiar art forms and young performers will help teens relate, said Frank Hawkins, director of education and outreach for AIDS Delaware.
“We think that over the many years that we’ve been doing this, it’s been informative because it’s a peer- to-peer approach,” Hawkins said. “The message translates into the language that they use to communicate with one another if the art forms are familiar to them. They can relate to rap, singing and dance.”
Ryshja, 15, and Alania, 14, choreographed a routine that depicted the struggles of two young girls. The Dover residents used a blend of hip-hop and contemporary inspired dance to tell the story. They chose to dance to Mary J. Blige’s “Runaway Love,” a song that tells the story of young girls who face physical and sexual abuse and hardship. The girls drew inspiration for their choreography from the song’s lyrics.
“We expressed the words through dances,” said Ryshja.
The duo began practicing their dance routine two weeks before Delaware Teen Idol auditions, which were held in May. After auditioning and making it into the final round the girls buckled down. In the weeks just before the competition they practiced every day to polish their routine. Sam Carter, Alania’s dad, has seen a change in his daughter over that time.
“They worked really hard,” Sam said. “I think it increased her work ethic overall. I think it will help her in her overall studies. She knows that she has to pursue things with a passion.”
Ryshja and Alania have been friends for four years but working together as a team brought them closer together, Alania said.
“I talk to Ryshja almost every day, she’s like a sister to me,” Alania said. “Being dance partners made us closer. Spending every day with someone, you get to know them better. Working as a team also taught me about compromise.”
Aside from building their own relationship and honing their talents, Delaware Teen Idol also offered the girls a chance to give back.
“I wanted to get involved to help raise awareness for teen pregnancy, drug abuse and abuse in general,” Alania said. “It’s a great experience to know you helped someone in need.”
Page 2 of 2 - For Ryshja, Delaware Teen Idol was a chance to put her talent to use for others.
“I’ve always been a dancer and I felt as though we could express things that we as teens deal with, negative stuff that we shouldn’t be doing, stuff you go though at teens, stuff we’ve experienced in our lives in a positive way through dance,” she said.
The duo’s performance earned them first place in Delaware Teen Idol. Their prizes included a flat screen TV, $1,500 and a plethora of gift cards. The girls divided the money and have both put it toward buying new school clothes.
Since winning Delaware Teen Idol, the girls have been given the opportunity to continue performing. They danced at Delaware State University for the Duffy’s Hope celebrity basketball game. They were also extended an offer to dance for the Delaware 87ers basketball team. The two are both heading into their first year of high school and both have plans to pursue dance as a career.
Michelle Toro, Ryshja’s mother, is proud of her daughter not only because she won but because she is setting a good example.
“She could have been doing anything else. Instead of being the one to raise awareness she could have been one of those falling victim to any of those topics, Toro said. “I’m glad she’s chosen not to, she’s chosen to help.”