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Young talent dances up a storm

COURTESY RYLEIGH MAYO

“I cry every single time,” said Dana Marquis, the mother of contemporary dance competitor Ryleigh Mayo. “She’s totally different from the rest.”

And, it looks like it’s not just her mother who has noticed…

After cleaning up at the iDance virtual competition for her contemporary and open dance solos, placing first in her solo performances, and gaining two judge awards for technique and choreography along with best overall intermediate score and best overall contemporary score, Mayo seems to have found her calling at just 14-years-old.

“I started in gymnastics, but it was never what I wanted to do,” said the 9th grader. “One day we were doing a show and it was more dance focused, and I got really into it. I could grasp it easily and it felt better.”

Five years later, after she discovered contemporary dance, Mayo has been competing and growing into an innovative creative with a unique style. “It feels very natural for me to move in that way,” she said, referring to the contemporary style of dance she has decided to pursue. In July 2019 she even competed in the Dance World Cup hosted in Whistler, BC.

In her most recent performance, Mayo’s costume was all black, and her face was painted as a clown. Despite the lack of audience, she gave her all, inducing a deep connection from the viewer.

This was a significant adjustment from the usual huge audience at typical dance conventions.

“With a live audience, when you emote and you interpret your emotions to dance, it’s easier for them to grasp, because they are physically there. They can feel the energy in the room,” said the teenager. Through video, you have to use your face a lot.”

Mayo explained that although it’s not ideal and she would rather perform for an active audience, she has adapted to video and made the most of it.

This passion of hers is something that has transcended the world of dance and has helped her grow as an individual. “I used to get really nervous before I went on, but now I know I can’t change the outcome, so I remain calm,” she said. “I have also developed the skills to stay calm under other pressure in my life.”

Marquis has noticed this shift in her daughter’s behaviour and is amazed by her confidence when she performs. “She acts so nonchalant,” said her mother. “When she came out of her performance she just said, ‘I think it’s the best one I ever did.’”

Being in her third year of high school, having to live through the pandemic has not always been easy for Mayo.

“Some days I wake up and dread going to dance for a week straight,” she said. But she has shown resilience and determination and when the inspiration hits, she’s all work!

Dancing at Extravadanse Studio, a multidisciplinary dance school in Chateauguay, she has now started socially-distanced in-person practices in the parking lot. As competition season will be finishing at the end of this month, Mayo is already looking forward to training for next year.

And doing so with the best supporters a girl could ask for right behind her every step of the way.

Her father Ralph Mayo and mother Marquis, with a tissue box in her hand, are always cheering her on.

“She just loves it and it has given her a way to express herself,” said Marquis. “We are extremely proud of her.”

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