As a two year old, Jaime Kerr remembers staring up at the small stage at the Polson Park bandstand awestruck as dancers in colourful costumes performed during Canada Day celebrations.
“When I got home, I got into my tutu and then I did a performance,” said Kerr.
“When I was a kid I was always bopping around to Shania Twain.”
That bopping around has since been refined as the 18 year old, who is about to graduate from W.L. Seaton Secondary School, is now an award-winning dancer.
Kerr, who studies with Lisa Schofield at Vernon’s Diversity Dance studio, recently topped her categories at dance competitions hosted by 5678 Showtime in Lake Louise and Whistler.
There she was recognized by world renowned dancers in the industry, including those who have worked for the Step Up film franchise and with Justin Bieber.
This is not the first time Kerr has competed and excelled.
Last year, she participated in a dance competition in Seattle and won Dancer of the Year, with the opportunity to go to Paris.
This year, she competed amongst thousands of dancers from across western Canada and qualified for the Dance World Cup, July 5-10 in Mont Tremblant, Que.
“When they called the second- and third-place dancers and then my name that I had placed first, I was taken aback. I didn’t expect I had done so well,” said Kerr. “I really connected with a judge in (Lake Louise). He pointed me out and said I was his favourite.”
Schofield, who was unable to make the competitions, said she knew her student had done well when she received a text from Kerr’s mother that simply read, “Thanks a lot Schofield.”
“I think she might have been thinking about how much money it costs to enter these competitions,” laughed Schofield.
However, the time, and money, has been well spent.
“The judges could not believe that such talent and ideas and choreography could come from such a small town. They kept asking her ‘(you’re) from Vernon?’” said Schofield.
For the competitions, Kerr performed a serious contemporary dance and a more light-hearted number in the theatrical style known as song and dance.
“You actually sing, whereas, in musical theatre it’s more lip syncing,” said Kerr, who is known for being able to project her voice even while leaping in the air and doing somersaults.
“I can belt out the words… I prefer the showmanship and humour part of it. I can be more myself and ad lib more.”
“Not many people can do it,” added Schofield. “The breath control needed for dancing along with singing is massive.”
Kerr was born to do both.
Her father’s side of the family is musical – her grandmother was an opera singer – while her mother’s side were dancers.
Born in Terrace, Kerr moved to Vernon when she was two and soon after started Irish dancing before going on to study tap, ballet, jazz, and hip hop at the Shuswap-Okanagan Dance Academy (now Sodance Vernon) for eight years.
Kerr was one of the very first students to start at Diversity Dance when Schofield, who is originally from Hull, England, opened her studio on 32nd Avenue two years ago.
“Lisa has been the best dance teacher I have ever had,” said Kerr. “Most are super serious and you don’t have that personal relationship with them. I have never had my teacher’s number before to just call or text, but with Lisa I can share personal things with her. She’s like my friend, teacher and second mom. I don’t think I would have done as well as I have if not for her.”
Both student and instructor are also involved with musical theatre in the community.
Kerr has performed in a number of student productions at 27th Street Theatre at Seaton, while Schofield has been the choreographer on most of Big Apple Productions/Valley Vocal Arts shows, including last weekend’s successful run of Beauty and the Beast at the Powerhouse Theatre.
With high school about to end, Kerr is planning to take a gap year to work at a resort in Tofino and travel to Europe before she starts auditioning for dance schools.
“I’ll have to see how the worlds turn out first, but I definitely want to pursue dance after graduation. I would like to be a part of something like Cirque du Soleil,” she said. “With school and dance ending, you realize how everything goes fast. It may be the end, but there are a lot of beginnings.”
But first Kerr will join Schofield and her Diversity Dance students, plus special guests, for the Dynamic Leap dance recital at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
This will be Kerr’s last show with the studio and she will perform her winning song and dance solo Maybe This Time from Cabaret.
Tickets are $25/adult and $15/student, child on sale at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.