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Getting ready to dance like the world’s watching

Elmira’s Jett Owens-Hughes preparing for international tap competition as part of Team Canada Dance

Another local dancer is set to take to a world stage in Germany come November. Elmira’s Jett Owens-Hughes was selected to be on the roster for Team Canada Dance after a rigorous audition process.

The 13-year-old will be joining fellow Elmira dancer Emily Morden on one of the most prestigious dance teams in the country at the “Olympics of dance,” the IDO World Tap Championships in Riesa, Germany, from November 26-30.

“At first I couldn’t believe it,” said the young dancer. “I thought [my mom] was joking. We usually joke around, and she’ll lie to me about something. So she told me, and I said ‘oh, okay…’ Then she showed me the [acceptance] email and I was so surprised.”

Owens-Hughes passion for dance – and  tap in particular – began more than a decade ago. At age two, he found himself always dancing along to television shows  such as High School Musical whenever the opportunity presented itself.

“It was nonstop,” said his mother, Joan Owens-Hughes, with a laugh. “We’d be in line at the bank, and he’d be tapping his feet, we’d be getting the mail, and he’d be tapping away. There was that constant movement of the feet.”

While he experimented with a variety of dance forms, including jazz, ballet, hip hop and lyrical, Owens-Hughes was particularly drawn to the tap style because of the quick movements. He has competed across Canada as well as the United States and was previously honoured with the title of Mini Master Dance Canada and Master Headliner.

In addition to his dancing ability, he has dabbled in other forms of entertainment: he was cast as Baby Bear in Ballet Jorgen’s Nutcracker for DaCosta Entertainment. He also participated in Drayton Entertainment’s Summer Youth Musical Theatre Program.

Currently, he trains at Davenport Dance studio in Waterloo. Instructors Lori Karges and Sue MacDonald note that his exceptional stage presence helps him stand out as a competitor.

“Jett is very charismatic and has a true passion for dance,” said Karges. “He’s a hard worker who’s dedicated, at the same time, he’s very much a team player.”

“His personality really shines through on stage,” added MacDonald.

The scheduling to prepare for the upcoming competition in Europe is relatively varied, including some 15 hours one week along with some 22 other dancers at the Tap Centre in Mississauga.

“The thing is the moment he met other kids on the dance team, it was like they’d known each other forever,” said his mom. “They become great friends already, and they’re from all over the place. It’s nice to see a gender balance as well – some boys on the team.”

She added that she finds that there are often more females than males on the dance teams in general, no matter the style. For the tap section, there are four boys on the 22-member team.

As is the case with Morden and the other members of Team Canada Dance, there is no government assistance for international competition, so each member is responsible for raising their own funds to attend the event. Costuming, hotels, and food are just some of the expenses required to attend. To that end, the Owens-Hughes family has already been making an effort to raise money, with plans for a bottle drive on September 27.

Their next initiative will be a spaghetti dinner fundraiser scheduled to take place October 5 at the Woolwich Community Centre, 5-8:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to come out and attend, and tickets can be purchased by emailing emelieowens@gmail.com.

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