Dancing has pulled Karyssa Aivaliotis out of quite a few difficult situations in her young life and, most recently, onto Team Canada for the IDO Dance World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Aivaliotis and five others – Cameron Roth of Cambridge, Michael Carvalho, Kennedy Richardson of Waterloo, Dawson Collier of Cambridge, and Victoria Caccioppoli of Mannheim – will represent Canada in the international street dancing competition October 16-20.“I was nervous I wouldn’t make it, but I was wrong,” Aivaliotis said with a grin.
It’s difficult for the 12-year-old to describe the feeling she gets while dancing. The sensation is hard to put into common words for a youth accustomed to a more physical form of communication. It’s the reason why a dance recital two years ago spurred her mother to defensive action after realizing just how much her daughter expressed through the craft.
“I was the lead in a dance competition, Miss Invisible, two years ago. I was the [character] who got bullied and picked on a lot and I had to show what the character I was playing felt,” Aivaliotis said.
Unbeknownst to her family at the time, it was a deeply personal role, as the young dancer had been experiencing the effects of bullying firsthand.
“I homeschooled her last year because of that. When she was performing that number I didn’t realize that she was actually living it,” said mother Lydia Aivaliotis.
Switching two schools in one year due to difficulties with peers and schoolwork took its toll. But all the while Aivaliotis was encouraged to dance while adjusting to the changes. This year she is doing well in her new surroundings at Conestogo Public School.
The performance earned her high praise from judges of the Niagara Falls MOVE competition, who called Aivaliotis “the heart of the piece.”
Dancing since the wee age of 15 months, it’s little wonder she has an emotional connection to her talent and big dreams of making it in a competitive industry.
Prepping for the trip to Europe this week, she smiled bashfully as her mother displayed her first dance outfit.
“She wore this,” gushed Lydia Aivaliotis, proudly hoisting up a tiny bedazzled tutu dress from its prominent place on a shelf lined with photos of her daughter, and smiling widely.
“It was her first-ever costume. She was still in diapers at the dance school – my older daughter was dancing – and she started dancing. The teacher said, ‘OK, fine just let her go,’ and she hasn’t stopped since.”
After leaving Bojangles Dance Arts in Kitchener, her first school, Aivaliotis began an arduous road to the top rungs of her art form, entering about five contests per year, and taking classes at Guelph’s Emotion Dance Company.
Today, she travels to Denmark for her biggest competition yet and, hoping to join the ranks of ballet dancer and actress Elizabeth Berkley, and Robert Garland (Dance Theatre of Harlem), Aivaliotis’ ambitions are set on The Julliard School in New York.
“I also want to go to the National Ballet School of Canada. They let you go at the age of 10 and you live there in Toronto,” she said.
And what’s her passion? Is it contemporary dance; maybe a mix of ballet and hip-hop; something in the vein of Julia Stiles in that classic if slightly clichéd teen film Save the Last Dance?
“All of it! Except for tap,” she declared.