Kennedy Heitman, 16, doesn’t need a line from Shakespeare’s play, As You Like It, to tell her that “all the world’s a stage.”
For her, it really is.
Heitman loves performing a wide variety of dance routines from ballet to hip hop, especially for a live audience. Introduced to dance at aged three, after just a few lessons at Judy Russell Enchainement Dance Centre, Heitman told her mother:
“I want to be up there dancing on stage one day.”
Since then Heitman has studied ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, modern, musical theatre and other dance disciplines
At age 11, she joined Judy Russell’s fundraising dance troupe, Performers North Entertainment, and the rest is, as Russell observed during the Uptown Funk show Sunday, “another reason why I love my job.” Watching dancers come up through the ranks is a huge joy, says Russell.
Heitman is a perfect example.
For several years, she has studied hard, practised long hours and rehearsed diligently for performances, recitals and competitions.
Her talent was easily recognized by adjusticators.
At the Prince George Dance Festival in March, Heitman was awarded the coveted overall dance excellence trophy and scholarships totalling over $2,000.
“Kennedy is the hardest working dancer you will ever find, and that’s the basis of being successful in the performing arts – or in any other discipline or career,” said Russell.
She’s watched with pride, she said Sunday, as dancers from her studio move on to bigger opportunities elsewhere and then return to pass on new skills and knowledge to aspiring dancers.
There are two motivators that help determine the outcome of a young person’s dedication to dance, she said.
“You don’t go anywhere in dance without passion and family support (in Heitman’s case, from her parents.).”
Heitman herself has plenty of passion and dedication, but her mother plays a special role in helping her daughter live her dream.
“My mother designs and sews many of my costumes,” said the dancer. “She has a big passion for designing them, she loves to do it. So that has helped me a lot.”
On Sunday, she and the other senior dancers were challenged by quick costume changes and by having to perform a number of very high-energy group numbers, almost back to back, in the second half.
Still, Heitman is able to keep calm.
That’s where her years of performing experience comes in.
“[Dance] is such a big part of my life,” she said. “I’ve already put in the long hours training and practising – and balancing all that with school and other activities. So when I finally get up there on stage ready to perform, I’m focused on the moment and what that feels like.”
While she continues to study, learn, grow and develop, Heitman is also teaching younger ones at the studio dance techniques. Besides the training and practising, following a good diet is part of any good dance regimen, she says.
“You have to eat well and make sure your body stays healthy, so you don’t get injured dancing. That’s why all the stretches and warm ups are so important.”
Heitman and other members of Performers North Entertainment troupe travel to Prince Rupert in May to participate in the provincial competitions. She hopes to be part of the cast of Russell’s Nutcracker production this year.
What’s behind her love of dance?
“I’ve loved dancing since I was young,” she said. “I’ve tried getting interested in other sports but I always came back to dance. I love it too much to ever leave it.”