Hayley Erbert is hoping to be one of the top 10 finalists in the "So You Think You Can Dance" TV competition. Her mother is a graduate of Copperas Cove High School and her grandfather is City Councilman Jim Schmitz.

Courtesy photo

Copperas Cove native Debbie Schwartz’s daughter, Hayley Erbert, fell in love with dance at the age of 5 and is now a contestant on the nationally televised dance competition “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Erbert auditioned for the show on Jan. 18 in Austin. It was a last-minute decision, she said in a phone interview from her Topeka, Kan., home.

“My mom had been trying to get me to go, but I thought I was too young and inexperienced and not gonna go far so I kind of didn’t want to do it.”

Schwartz convinced her daughter to try out. Two days later, mother, daughter and Erbert’s dance instructor made the 10-hour trip from Kansas to Texas.

Erbert’s grandparents, Copperas Cove City Councilman Jim Schmitz and his wife, Gloria, also were at the audition cheering for her, along with relatives from San Antonio.

“We have been contacted by so many people in Texas, like past high school and college friends, acquaintances and relatives,” said Schwartz, a Copperas Cove High School graduate. “They’ve been really supportive.”

Erbert made it successfully through the Austin audition and continued on to Las Vegas, where she was chosen to be one of 20 contestants to compete on season 10 of the Fox network series.

Erbert was not expecting to make the top 20.

“I stood there after they told me I made it and stared at them for a while, because I felt like it wasn’t real,” she said. “I was so shocked the entire time, and I just started crying. I was beyond excited.”

Schwartz, who flies back and forth from Kansas to Los Angeles to be with her daughter, said the experience has been exciting, yet overwhelming.

“It’s surreal. At times I forget what it is until other people are calling and asking us questions,” she said. “People have been asking for her autograph and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is my daughter.’”

As a contestant, Erbert has a grueling schedule, dancing 12 hours a day for several days throughout the week.

The experience has been insane but rewarding, she said.

“It gets really crazy and we’re exhausted, but it’s so much fun,” she said.

“The choreographers are great to work with and all of the contestants are amazing as well. We’re all so close, like a family, and it’s really cool to be a part of.”

Erbert is considering attending Chapman University in Orange County, Calif., after the competition but said it depends on how the show goes.

If she makes it to the top 10, she will automatically go on a yearlong nationwide performance tour.

“At this point, we’re just taking it one week at a time,” Schwartz said.

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