Freshman dance student wins $10,000 Live Más scholarship

David Spector

Growing up in a military family that transferred from base to base, Khorii Tinson was used to movement. Amidst the constant changes, she found solid ground in dance.  

“I was moving schools, and dance was that thing that connected me to my family and myself,” Tinson said. “I feel that I’m a dancer first, before anything else.”

Tinson, a freshman studio dancer at UT, was selected from over 2,000 applicants to receive a $10,000 “Live Más” scholarship from the Taco Bell Foundation with 220 other winners across the nation. Applicants were tasked with creating a two-minute video showing how the scholarship would help reach their goal. Tinson sent a video on a whim, highlighting various dances with a voice-over describing what dance means to her.

Instead of rewarding students conventionally, based on their test scores and academic averages, the Taco Bell Foundation hopes to promote creativity.

“The scholarship was for the creators of the world,” Tinson said. “There are always scholarships for sports and the greatest GPA. This targeted what your passions are and your talents.”  

Debra Baile, Tinson’s dance instructor from Jacksonville, North Carolina, has been watching Tinson dance from a young age and has seen her grow as an artist. 

“I used to always say to her mom when she was little, ‘You need to do something with her — she needs to be on TV,’” Baile said. “She didn’t tell any of us that she had applied for [the scholarship.] She’s incredibly humble; she didn’t make a big deal out of it.”

After working intensively with Tinson and seeing her passion for dance up close, Baile said she wasn’t surprised when she won the competition.

“She sees the world in a really different way,” Baile said. “Dancing has been such a big part of her life because she has bounced around, but dance has been the one thing she had everywhere she went.”

Tinson travels as a spokesperson for the Taco Bell Foundation on behalf of her scholarship and participates in frequent sponsored events for the organization. 

“I went to a workshop in Chicago for it, brainstorming ideas, because this is the first year they are doing this and I am the charter class,” Tinson said. “I just got called to do a convention in Orlando last week. It’s crazy, I get a little starstruck sometimes.”

Regardless of where Tinson travels, she said her Austin dance circle is home. 

“The dance community here is very tight-knit ­— the rigor is very high, but the atmosphere and the professors are just so great,” Tinson said. “Even the classes I take that aren’t movement-oriented, like somatics or improvisational pedagogy — this University offers so much more.” 

While Tinson is still deciding which avenue to focus on in the industry, she said she’s sure she wants to pursue dancing as a career. 

“I want to perform, that’s all I want to do,” Tinson said “I want to do this for the rest of my life.”