There were only a few minutes before the show at the Commons Theatre was set to begin on Saturday afternoon, when the box office clerk looked down over his desk at a young girl standing with her towering father.
Paisley Knightingale stood holding her father’s hand, squirming in her purple and pink rain boots. Her dad grinned and explained that his five-year-old daughter was a rising dance star.
“It’s a gift, she has had it since she was little,” James Knightingale said as Paisley hid behind his coat. “She was shaking her bum when she was a toddler. I’ve got videos of her.”
As he peeled the ballet dancer off his side, he explained that her instructor at the dance school she attends in Ottawa – Dance Roots – suggested she enter their competitive group. They decided this event was the perfect chance to see a what a competitive showcase would be like for her.
Dance Roots put on the event, called Chase Your Dreams, as a way for its dancers to showcase their competitive routines to friends and family and to raise funds for brain cancer research in Ottawa.
Young performers took the morning to prepare in full wardrobe, hair and makeup in Student Commons. But for Paisley, the anticipation began far earlier.
“She loves dancing. She was dancing in her dreams last night,” her father said with a smile. “She was doing this thing with her arms and she hit me in the head.”
Although it was Paisley’s first time watching her school’s competitive showcase, she is no stranger to Algonquin’s big stage.
“They actually have a show every year, so she’s actually performed two or three times on stage,” James explained.
In fact, Paisley does not shy away from performing anywhere in public.
“We were at Ikea and she was dancing,” he said with a laugh. “I had to keep reeling her in saying, ‘Come on, come on. Come over here!’ She had the cart and she was literally dancing with the cart in Ikea I was like, ‘Seriously?’”
As the ushers began opening the doors to the dimly lit theatre, Paisley tugged on her father’s coat and asked, “Dad, can we just go in?”
Inside, the red curtains were drawn and the words, “Dance Roots. The stronger the roots, the higher the reach” were projected on them.
A mother scrambled backstage with a makeup bag and a father sat in the front row with a bouquet or flowers as the crowd settled and the show began.
Into the evening, thirty routines lit-up the stage from up-beat jazz and tap numbers, to intricate ballet and contemporary routines.
In its sixth competitive season, Dance Roots’ goal is to “develop a foundation of technique while inspiring a passion for the art of dance,” according to its website. Starting in September each year, the school aims to prepare its dancers for an end-of-year performance, Dreams in Progress, in May.
A full crowd cheered the dancers on until the finale.
To the side of the Commons Theatre, Paisley’s purple and pink rain boots never touched the floor. She sat on the edge of her seat and glued her eyes to the stage she may one day perform on with the school as a competitive dancer.
But for now, her dad explained, she would simply continue to do what she loves the most.
“She loves it. She loves doing her own choreography. She’ll just do stuff and create her own dance moves,” he smiled at her. “It’s incredible.”