Dancing with the World Performers Canada Junior Jazz Large Group, 16-year-old Katelynn Osborne of Kingston, Ontario, brought home the gold at the 2021 Dance World Cup (DWC) for the group’s number Little Monsters, choreographed by Kim O’Neil. Known as “the Olympics of dance,” and hosting over 20,000 dancers from 62 countries, the DWC is, according to its website, the “largest, all-genre international dance competition for children and young adults in the world.”
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the team was not able to attend the Aug. 2021 event hosted in Telford, England, but they danced their way to gold via live stream broadcasting from a stage in Toronto.
Osborne has been dancing at Rhythm Dance Center (RDC) in Amherstview since she was three years old. Beginning with ballet and tap, she has evolved as a dancer through trying “just about everything.” For over six years now, Katelynn has been dancing competitively with RDC.
Not all roads lead to Rome
In the summer of 2019, Osborne auditioned for the World Performers Canada (WPC) team, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 Dance World Cup was set to be held in Italy that year, and she was offered a ballet trio position, but the competition was postponed due to the pandemic.
“We were all excited about going to Rome,” Osborne said in a telephone interview. “In March we had a practice over the winter break. [That] was the last time I saw all of [my teammates] because COVID happened and we moved to remote.”
The team continued practicing on Zoom and kept their spot in the postponed competition. Osborne then auditioned virtually and was accepted into the 2021 DWC competition. “We kept those dances from that year and brought them around to the next [year’s competition]. So then I had two sets of routines from different years that I had to remember,” she said.
After months of online and socially distanced outdoor practices, while working hard to balance school and a part-time job, Osborne and her trio competed virtually at the DWC in the summer of 2021 with tremendous success. The Junior Jazz Group is also set to perform at the 2022 Miss Universe pageant, pending COVID restrictions.
Team pivots to virtual competition performance
“When we [performed for WPC], we went into a venue and we got to [dance] on a stage, which was still a good feeling, but it doesn’t feel the same,” Osborne said. Her mother and “cheerleader,” Jen Osborne, added, “It’s the audience that gives the dancers the energy. There was no [physical] audience to watch the dance, so they were performing to an empty auditorium. There was some excitement there being able to go on stage, but that’s about it.”
Although the team didn’t get the excitement of performing for a live audience, they were still able to cheer on their teammates and watch all the other numbers from dancers across the globe. They were also able to watch the live stream of the ceremony in which Osborne’s Junior Large Jazz Group received their gold medal.
A dancer’s dream
Osborne auditioned for DWC again this year, and she is excited to continue dancing with World Performers Canada. The 2022 competition is set to take place in Spain this summer.
“This year is really exciting because she has the opportunity to perform in both jazz and contemporary,” Jen Osborne expressed. “She was offered a solo and will be [competing] as a Junior Contemporary Soloist for Canada this time around.”
Osborne is looking forward to showcasing her passion and personal expression as a soloist. Jen said that when her daughter is “melded well with a choreographer that sees her style and can choreograph a number that meets her strengths, it’s real magic.”
The younger Osborne is also excited to be working with well-known choreographers such as Ashley Schofield, who has worked for World of Dance and whom Osborne describes as “an inspiration.”
Competition not without cost
“Third time’s the charm”, said Jen. “We’re sure we’re going this year [to the DWC in Spain]. We are sure. We’re vaccinated. We’ve done everything we need to do to travel, and we’re really looking forward to going.” However, the cost of travel and training is reliant on the dancers themselves. Each WPC dancer must raise nearly $5,000 to compete.
Sponsorships donated to World Performers Canada in support of Osborne’s dream would be greatly appreciated. Jen said that they would love to see the support of local businesses, but understands the financial strains due to the effect of COVID-19 regulations. They remain hopeful, though: “If anybody is looking to sponsor someone that’s passionate in dance and is following her dreams, it would be great if they could reach out and let us know. We can connect with them.”
Studio’s adaptability during pandemic shows clear commitment to students
Dance studios, like so many other facilities, have had to adapt their instructional delivery throughout the pandemic, and RDC has been no exception. The Osbornes are certainly thankful for the studio’s commitment to their dancers. “They were very creative,” said Osborne, “always finding ways for us to get on stages or get outside and to [train] on Zoom.”
She credits her “home studio” (RDC), Director Melissa Bartzis, and Instructor Tenay Bartzis for being sources of inspiration, and she commends their commitment to the dancers.
Much dancing still to be done
As for the future, Osborne said, “If I get the opportunity to [continue dancing], then I will definitely take it. I’ve gotten this far, I might as well keep going.” Jen said proudly that dance “will likely always be part of [Katelynn’s] life.”
Osborne encouraged any aspiring young dancers out there to “take any opportunity that is given to you. You never know what is going to come from that email, or site, or offer. Always try it out, because you never know where it could lead you. That’s what got me to where I am today.”