A year after leaving the prestigious Washington Ballet, Rebecca Houseknecht still dances. But the symphonic sounds of ballet have been replaced by the driving beats of the 14-time national champion Towson University dance team.

The Middle River native capped off her meteoric rise as a ballet student when she competed at the 2010 Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest ballet competition. The contest was chronicled in the recent film documentary First Position, and Houseknecht was one of seven dancers featured in the movie. Being a big part of the documentary was fun, she says, but the glare of the spotlight wasn’t really comfortable for her.

“The other kids in the movie were totally dedicated to ballet, but I think I was picked to be a part of it partly because I had a life outside of dance,” she says. “I think the other dancers were more comfortable than I was being followed by the cameras.”

After the Grand Prix, she was offered a position with The Washington Ballet’s studio company, which offers young dancers a taste of the ballet world. She eagerly accepted. But after just a few months, the reality of life as a professional dancer set in. The now 20-year-old sophomore quickly realized the total commitment that would be required to dance at that level.

“If you’re not willing to give up everything for it, it’s not for you,” she says. “I didn’t like it. It was too much like work.”

Now a health-care management major at Towson, she is having a ball with the university’s dance squad, which got to compete in a national competition in Daytona Beach, FL.

“It’s so different,” she says. “It was so cool to go on an outside stage in front of thousands of people and perform with your team. It was definitely a bigger adrenaline rush than ballet.”