On the move: Nanaimo dancer competes at festival

Kelly Mathews competes in dance at Upper Island Musical Festival in Nanaimo this month.  - MELISSA FRYER/The News Bulletin
Kelly Mathews competes in dance at Upper Island Musical Festival in Nanaimo this month.
— image credit: MELISSA FRYER/The News Bulletin

When Kelly Mathews started ballet lessons, she set her sights were most six-year-olds do – on the pretty, girly tutu.

Now 17 and with experience at national levels, she set her sights a bit higher after graduation from Wellington Secondary School this year.

“I’m planning on taking a few years off [school] to pursue dance,” Mathews said. “I’m still kind of deciding.”

Until then, she performs 10 times in dance sections at the Upper Island Musical Festival in Nanaimo later this month.

The teen is a veteran of the festival, having performed soon after lessons began as a child.

“I don’t remember my first performance, but I do remember my first solo,” Mathews said. “My legs were so wobbly.”

She chose classical ballet for her first solo, and expanded her repertoire to jazz dance, hip hop and more over the years.

“The main reason I wanted to do a ballet solo was so I could wear a tutu,” Mathews said. “Since then, I kept adding on more and more solos.”

Mathews is one of more than 3,600 students from Nanaimo and the North Island competing for the chance to go on to the provincial performing arts festival in May.

Mathews made it there twice before – in 2010 for intermediate ballet and last year in dance for stage and ballet. She chose to represent the community in the ballet section.

She competes in the vocal category this year as well, performing duets with her dad and Taylor Manns. Mathews sings and plays trumpet in the Wellington jazz band.

“It’s an intense competition,” Mathews said. “Everyone inspires each other, I find.”

Her interest in dance started with classes through Nanaimo parks and recreation before moving on to classes at Harbour Dancentre. From ballet, she added jazz, modern and tap, most recently taking up hip hop at Vibrant dance studio. At 12, she earned a spot at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s summer school, and recently headed to California to attend workshops at Edge School of Performing Arts.

That workshop was hosted by Mandy Moore, a choreographer from the television show So You Think You Can Dance, and saw Mathews dance alongside Melanie Moore – no relation – who won the eighth season of the U.S. show.

“That was really inspiring,” Mathews said.

Before she takes the stage at Beban Park social centre, Mathews said she’ll look over her past adjudications  for areas she can improve.

“It’s always good to have another pair of eyes,” she said. “I always like to get criticism that I can build on.

“No one is ever perfect.”

If a career in dance isn’t in the cards, she has another interest – physiotherapy.

“I’ve always been fascinated by how the body works,” she said.

Dance sections begin March 24 and continue April 5.

For more information and a full schedule, please visit www.nanaimomusicfestival.com.

Previous profiles on students competing at the Upper Island Musical Festival, include the Wei siblings, competing in piano, and Taylor Manns, competing in vocal sections.


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