SIERRA VISTA — When 11-year-old Abigail Dixon walks on stage, she transforms into a whole new person.

“When I’m on stage I’m a sassy person ... I have no nerves,” Abigail said. “Off stage I’m a shy (and) nervous person.”

Why she’s able to flip a switch, the tween doesn’t know, but her mother Catie Dixon said she doesn’t recognize her daughter when she’s watching her perform.

Since Abigail started dancing Catie says she has become more confident and making more friends. Abigail first started taking dance classes when she was 2 years old and just finished her fourth year on Sierra Vista Dance Company’s competition team.

At the beginning of the dance season, it was Abigail’s goal to earn a solo spot and make the competition team. This year’s dance season wrapped up with a bit of a surprise for the 11-year-old and exceeded all of her expectations.

“I struggle sometimes, but I keep trying until I get it down,” she said. “It’s a challenge — I like challenge.”

Abigail finished fourth in the national competition for her solo jazz number in Dallas at the end of June. This was the first year she has performed a solo routine and was one of two girls from Sierra Vista at the competition. She competed against 50 to 100 girls in the juniors category.

“She went out there and killed it,” Catie said. “Her only expectation is to do what makes her happy.”

Abigail, her harshest critic, had other thoughts.

“I did mess up a couple of times, but that didn’t keep me from thinking I wasn’t going to rank high,” she said.

Abigail qualified for the Encore National Championships at the regional in May when she took first place of more than 50 girls in Mesa. She said she didn’t even realize they had called her name until one of her teammates nudged her so she could accept her trophy and medal.

The tween’s chance to dance on the nationals’ stage almost didn’t come to fruition after she had qualified in May because of financial reasons. Catie said the biggest expenses were flight and hotel which put into question if they would be able to go and how many supporters would attend.

To help with the cost Caite created a fundraiser on Facebook, in addition to receiving some help from her parents. She said the fundraiser made more than enough to cover the remainder of the costs for the trip.

When she’s not on the dance floor or stage — which is rare, because Abigail took five dance classes a week throughout the season — she attends Center for Academic Success, where she plays soccer with her friends. She also like to paint and be creative when she’s home.

Abigail encourages her friends, peers and other people to keep trying even if they don’t succeed at first because that’s how she had improved.

“Try your best,” she said. “If you think something is hard, you just have to try and you can get better.”

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