The hard work is done as contemporary dancer Ryleigh Mayo came back from BC with four medals as her star continues to rise in dance. (courtesy Dana Marquis)
When Ryleigh Mayo first took a dance class when she was nine years old, she stood in the corner petrified to move.
“I kind of stood in the class being scared of everything,” said Mayo. “I was like, ‘what am I doing?’ I was really uncomfortable in the beginning.”
Fast-forward to June 30 when Mayo turned 13, and won the 13-14 Junior Contemporary solo at the 5678 Showtime Nationals in Whistler, BC.
“She did her solo, on her birthday and she ended up winning first place,” said mother Dana Marquis, who accompanied her daughter.
“They sang me happy birthday at awards,” said Mayo with a laugh.
The new teenager, who trains at the Extravadanse Studio in Chateauguay, was not done.
Mayo and partner Meldane Benoit won the duo division at the same competition for another gold medal. The pair were outstanding winners in the category, beating the second place team by nearly 10 points.
The two girls listened to the judges’ critiques from their first competition of the year at Reprezent Laval, and worked on engaging their legs, pointing feet and staying in synch on every trick.
“That was the best time we’ve ever done our duo,” said Mayo, whose proud father is Ralph Mayo. “Us being synchronized really helped us a lot… There was maybe two seconds that we were off.”
Marquis is at every competition and has seen her daughter’s fine-tuning and tireless practice pay off.
“It’s flipped 100 per cent,” she said. “They worked really hard.”
Mayo and Marquis stuck around in Whistler for the invitational Dance World Cup hosted at the same venue.
Mayo placed second in the solo 13-14 category out of seven girls, and second with Benoit in the duo 14-15 division.
Her medal count is now 12 in two years.
Mayo hits the weights to help build strength for the demanding lifts and moves dance requires.
Her growth in the art form has been incredible, and she has embraced competing in the demanding contemporary dance events.
“My first year of competing, I was really scared for every competition,” said Mayo. “Now, I always want to be at a competition because it’s so fun. You meet so many new people, and you get to improve so much from other people’s critiques.”
Some artists have a tough time with critiques and their inevitable assault on the artists’ confidence. Not so for Mayo.
“The next class after the competition, you get to hear all the judges’ critiques and what they thought you were really good at, and what they thought you could improve on, so you can work on that in the class and prepare for the next competition,” said Mayo.
Mayo is unique in a plethora of ways. She is the only Kahnawa’kehró:non competing and thriving in contemporary dance, and she develops her routines on her own, tapping into her emotions and creativity.
“You can listen to a song and immediately get the storyline or have to think of it as you go,” she said. “The way you create different textures as you’re dancing, you have speed control, you have popping and all of that – you engage all of your muscles and let go. It’s hard, but it’s fun. It also makes you very sore.”
This weekend, Mayo will be on set with APTN filming an episode for season two of That’s AWSM!, a show that profiles an Indigenous teen paired with a celebrity guest.
Next year she will add jazz and open dance to her contemporary routine and wants to try tap.
The work helps Mayo come out of her shell and express herself.
“Show your real person,” said Mayo.
“She’s determined and focused,” said Marquis.
Mayo disappears into the character she created when she dances, and it lifts her to another artistic level.
“I feel as soon as I have everything together and rehearse it full out and do everything, I can really get into the character,” she said. “When you hear the music, you think, ‘okay. I have to perform.’ When you hear the music over everything, it’ll boost you to a different level in your characterization.”