Kitchener kids perform for huge ACC crowds as Raptors dancers
By Charlotte Prong Parkhill
Kitchener Post staff
When the Toronto Raptors’ mascot stepped onto the floor of the Air Canada Centre in front of 20,000 fans for the team’s home opener last week, he had three little baby raptors with him.
And all three of them are from Waterloo Region.
Alexa Splane, Avery Trask and Ashley Rogan, all from Dimensions in Dance studio in Kitchener, will be dancing with the Raptor at all home games as part of the Raptors’ junior hip-hop dance team. As the smallest dancers, they were chosen to play the part of the baby dinosaurs.
Along with them are their studio colleagues Brendan Pomeroy, Alexandra Chaves and Selena Baranriz.
Dimensions in Dance students outshone most of the competition at auditions earlier this fall, taking six of the seven available spots.
“That’s what was so amazing. The choreographers don’t know where the kids are from or anything, so it’s not political,” says studio owner Kimberly Kay.
“I thought the audition would be hard, but it got easier as we got to know the routine,” says Brendan, who notes that the dancers are trained to pay attention and “go full out.”
“We’re hard-working and we always want to get better,” Alexandra says.
The huge crowds don’t faze Selena, who says she’s used to dancing for people at the competitions they attend regularly.
Avery’s sister Alyssa has been part of the Raptors’ dance group in the past, but has made her mark recently as the overall champion at a Hollywood dance competition.
Also there? The competitive kids and catty moms from the TLC reality show Dance Moms.
“We’re all just there to dance and compete and have fun,” Alyssa says. “But it was a little nerve wracking with all the cameras.”
One of the senior dancers, Juliana Damiao carries the dance title of Teen Miss Canada, and earned a scholarship to go to New York this summer for hip-hop training.
But she says the many hours she spends rehearsing at the studio each week actually help her with schoolwork.
“Dance is really good, because at a really young age you have to learn how to balance out all the work,” she says.
Kay opened the studio when she was just 20 years old, and has operated it for 26 years. She has hundreds of students learning jazz, tap, ballet, contemporary, hip-hop and acrobatic dance.
“A lot of people have the misconception that we’re really competitive,” she said. “But we have a huge recreational program, and those students put on a big show every year.”
And Kay knows not everyone will go on to take up dance as a career, including her own daughter, who has left the studio and gone to university.
“But she told me she does miss the teamwork of dance,” Kay says.
Along with teaching, she’s also a choreographer and sometimes judge. She just took her first vacation in six years — to Las Vegas, where she went to the dance shows.
So, is there any Dance Moms drama at Dimensions in Dance?
“There’s no drama between the moms, and no rivalry between the kids,” Kay says.
“I know what we do here isn’t a cure for cancer or anything, but I feel so lucky to be able to do the thing I love so much.”