A young woman takes to the stage. As she glides across the wooden black-top, with each step carefully timed to coincide with the beat of the music, strands of her golden-blonde hair escape from the perfectly crafted bun and glide behind her as she takes flight, soaring through the air as an anchor tossed to the sea.
As she lands, the crowd bursts into applause — she has placed in first and is bringing home the gold.
For most dancers, it’s only a dream. But for Coldstream’s Olivia Bliss, it’s a reality. Bliss won the audience over at the Performing Arts B.C.’s Provincial Festival of Dance 2017 in Kamloops at the beginning of June, claiming first place for Stage 3.
“I love the performance aspect,” Bliss said of dancing. “It’s something I feel comfortable doing and something I excel at.”
The 16-year-old Accentz Dance Studio prodigy competed against 19 other dancers in her category, representing the Kelowna Kiwanis Festival, for which she was elected as their representative in March, in the competition comprised of dancers from 33 local festivals.
Bliss was also selected to represent the City of Kamloops in modern dance at Provincials, but she was only able to compete in one category and opted for stage.
“She has been working towards this goal since she decided to devote her time after school, and some during school, to dance in 2012,” said Bliss’s mother, Karen.
And for her, the seed was planted when she began dancing at the age of four.
“I was originally doing highland dance,” she said. “I saw the jazz and musical theatre (stage) dance and decided that was more for me.”
Stage is the category that contains tap dancing, jazz dancing, and hip hop dancing, Bliss said. Her first competition was in 2009, and she has never looked back.
“It’s a tricky lifestyle,” Bliss said. “But my favourite part about it is competition.”
And it’s a lifestyle that has kept Bliss busy in her off-time.
Bliss is currently a Grade 11 student in the high performance program at VSS. The high performance program aims to provide select students who fit a specific criteria with a core education program that allows for extended time off due to the demands of their rigorous high-level performance regimen. Students in the program must compete at a Provincial level in their respective fields.
“It gives you more free time while you’re at school,” Bliss said of the program.
However, that doesn’t mean the schooling is any easier. Bliss said that her favourite courses are those that favour problem solving, such as science and calculus.
“It’s less memory and more of a trying to figure something out,” Bliss said of her classes.
When she isn’t dancing or hitting the books, Bliss spends her spare time paddle-boarding in the summer and skiing in the winter.
But dance is her passion. After she graduates from VSS, Bliss hopes to attend college in Vancouver where she will have more opportunity to hone her craft.
“I’d like to try to keep it up after graduation,” Bliss said.
“I’d like to say that I’ll always be dancing.”