Cleveland senior steals show at cheer and dance state competion

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico High School Cheer and Dance State Competition is all about team performance, but this year it was a solo that stole the show.

“As far as I know, no one has ever done a solo and certainly none of our students with special needs have ever had that opportunity,” Nicole Kaufman said.

Tianna Habersham is a senior at Cleveland High School with Down Syndrome. Kaufman has been Habersham’s dance coach at Cleveland High School for three years.

Habersham will tell you she’s had an active high school career, but the one thing she’s most proud of is her spot on the school’s dance team.

“This is my fourth year to be on the team,” she said.

Habersham is a four year letterman in dance.

“I knew this was her senior year,” Kaufman said. “She performs with us. She travels with us. The only experience she will not have had is ‘state’ on The Pit floor.”

But Kaufman said she wasn’t willing to let that happen.

“Walking down the ramp at The Pit, that’s like the culminating moment of the year for any team,” she said.

Kaufman said she approached the New Mexico Activities Association last July, and just weeks before the competition Habersham got the go-ahead. So, she went to work.

“The crowd was so loud I was worried that she wasn’t going to hear the music,” Kaufman said.

Not a chance.

“I had my hair and makeup and stuff on. I went out there, killed it,” Habersham said. “They were clapping and cheering for me.”

Habersham performed in front of thousands without skipping one beat. Since October, she has been learning the moves and practicing her routine, but Kaufman said it’s Habersham who taught everyone else around her.

“A lot of these girls come in and they’re watching as Tianna overcomes a different set of challenges every day,” Kaufman said. “She just wants to be the same as everyone else and I think she’s done that and then some.”

Habersham graduates in May. She’s been accepted to the culinary program at CNM and she’s expecting to “kill it.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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