published Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Signal Mountain 12-year-old Kallie Harris qualifies for Disney dance team

Kallie Harris, 12, dances with other members of the Signal Mountain Middle/High School dance team at the Fall Hodgepodge in Signal Mountain on Saturday. Harris qualified to dance at the Thanksgiving Day Parade at Walt Disney World, and was one of 200 young dancers from across the United States to do so.
Kallie Harris, 12, dances with other members of the Signal Mountain Middle/High School dance team at the Fall Hodgepodge in Signal Mountain on Saturday. Harris qualified to dance at the Thanksgiving Day Parade at Walt Disney World, and was one of 200 young dancers from across the United States to do so.
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLAIM TO FAME

Kallie Harris, 12, qualified this summer to dance at Walt Disney World's televised Thanksgiving Day Parade as a member of the Universal Dance Association's All-American Dance Team. She also received blue-ribbon reviews of three high-level routines she performed at a UDA camp in June.


ABOUT HER

• School: Seventh-grader at Signal Mountain Middle/High.

• Favorite subjects: English and math.

• Favorite piece to dance to: "Till the World Ends" by Britney Spears.

• Favorite dance techniques: Pirouette and tour jeté.


TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 13 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.

To Kallie Harris, the greatest hurdle a dancer must overcome isn't balance, technique or poise -- it's focus.

"The hardest part, for me, was having to pay attention," the 12-year-old said of the rote memorization necessary to learn new routines.

"You have to love dance to keep doing it," she added. "It is a lot of hard work."

Kallie has been studying dance since she was 18 months old, when her mother began taking her to a ballet class at the Oak Ridge Academy of Dance in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Since then, she has taken classes in several other styles, including tap, jazz, hip-hop and lyrical, a fusion style combining elements of modern, jazz and ballet.

Melinda Harris said her daughter was obsessed with dance long before she began her training.

"She danced around the house so much and loved music," Harris said. "She loved to dance and loved music. It was just part of her.

"She was born with it, [and] she hasn't stopped since."

Those years of study paid dividends when Kallie was selected as an All-American dancer at a Universal Dance Association camp held this June at Tennessee Tech.

To receive All-American distinction, dancers are selected by their teams to take additional classes and learn a series of six pre-established routines and a pair of routines they choreograph themselves. These must be performed in front of the camp and judged. About 10 percent of competitors make the cut, according to the UDA website.

In Oak Ridge, Kallie was accepted into other elite dance programs. At age 8, she joined the Oak Ridge Academy of Dance's Contemporary Dance Ensemble competition team. The next year, she joined the Oak Ridge Dance Teams Training Association.

When Kallie found out she was an All-American, though, she was overwhelmed, she said.

"You try out before dinner and ... you're held in the suspense of 'Did I make it, or didn't I? Did I have a good expression on my face? What if I messed up?' " she said. "When I found out, I was so happy I was crying."

As an All-American, Kallie qualified to perform with other UDA dancers in the Universal Cheer Association and Universal Dance Association Thanksgiving Tour at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.

As long as she has been dancing, Kallie said, she has enjoyed the attention she receives from audiences, and she has long since overcome the stage fright she felt during her first recital at age 3.

Even though she'll be dancing for a national audience during the televised parade, she said she will focus on the performance, not the crowd.

Kallie is a member of Signal Mountain Middle/High School inaugural dance team, which her mother coaches.

Dancing is in her blood. Her mother also was a lifelong dancer, as were her aunt and her grandfather. Given that history, and Kallie's natural talent, Harris said she sees pushes her even harder to excel.

"I can tell when she's not giving her full effort, so I'll critique her more and ask more from her," Harris said. "I don't want the other girls to think that I favor her or am hard on her, but I know what she's capable of."

Even if dancing means enduring rigorous practices and the tedium of learning new steps, Kallie said she can't imagine life without it.

"Life without dance would be like life without fun," she said. "Dancing is like breathing for me. It just comes. "

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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