Emma Searles still has her Team Canada jacket from 2012 when she competed at the IDO World Ballet, Jazz and Modern Dance Championships in Frankfurt, Germany at the age of 12.
Barely 12... she had her 13th birthday on the flight home.
"It's a little snug," she smiled.
It's the same jacket she wore a year earlier at the 2011 World Ballet, Jazz and Modern Championships in Mikolajki, Poland.
Now just turned 16, Searles has a new Team Canada jacket lined up. She's going back to Mikolajki to compete at the 2015 World Ballet, Jazz and Modern Championships, Dec. 8-13, this time at the senior level.
Poland, however, was Plan B. Originally she wanted to dance at the World Show Dance Championships in Riesa, Germany, Nov. 23-28, and had made the Canadian team after Ontario auditions from March through May.
Show dance is similar to jazz, but other disciplines are allowed in the routines such as acro tricks. Choreography is artistic and must have a theme or storyline told through music, costumes and choreography, and a high caliber of dance technique.
"My (show dance) team ended up folding, there wasn't enough dancers."
Selected and choreographed by Allain Lupien, internationally recognized director of Canadian Dance Company in Oakville and Burlington, and actor in The Next Step on The Family Channel, the team was an elite group.
"He wanted dancers with stronger abilities," said Searles, who trains at Elite Dance Centre in Woodstock. "He was very precise about who he picked to be on his team.”
But the team dropped in the fall when students returned to school. Most were university age, said Searles, and some had to balance post-secondary with dance.
"And I believe four dancers on the TV show could not get out of their contracts."
Searles found out in September.
"It was kind of heart-breaking. I've always wanted to dance for Allain Lupien. It's on my bucket list... but at least I know I made the team."
That's when she learned there was a Plan B.
"They offered the dancers who did make his team to go over to the ballet, jazz, modern, which is the one I've done twice. I was kind of debating it, but I thought, I haven't done it as a senior, I know the choreographers well – we're kind of close – so I was like, 'I can go to the practice, see what I can do, get caught up'..."
Practice went very well and it was an easy decision to join the senior team, which is made up of about 16-18 dancers.
"This year the choreography's been harder. Everything is just more intense. Everything's just right at you... it's just a big jump (from junior)."
And it's a good number, she said with a smile.
"I listened to our song in math class and I got goose bumps. I texted the choreographer and said, 'this is going to be a good one!' I'm very excited. The music, the costumes, it's all coming together. I think we have a pretty good chance this year... knock on (kitchen table) wood.
"I'm definitely doing a lot more than in my junior years," she said, noting the opportunity to do solos and duets, which would be selected closer to competition.
"I'm also doing the ballet – the last two times I didn't, just jazz and modern. The choreographer has always wanted me to do it, but I thought, when I was in juniors, I just wanted to grow a little more."
A more confident dancer, Searles attends more workshops, and this year is helping out with Team Canada's children's team.
"I've grown, I've definitely grown," she said, comparing herself from the age of 11-13. "This time I know what to expect."
The competition in Mikolajki, located about a four-hour drive from Warsaw near the Russian border, is at a resort, and she remembers it well.
"I definitely have a lot of memories from the first one. The hotel, which is more like a resort, is like Grand Bend in the summer – it's beautiful, it's chaotic, it's busy. In the winter it's kind of quiet and like a ghost town.
"The memories are pretty good," she nodded, looking forward to creating new memories, and comparing them, much like she compared Germany to Poland.
"It (Germany) was kind of chaotic, but my whole family went that time, so it was kind of nice. I had more travel time, there was more to see, more touristy things. Just for that reason I liked Germany more. But for dance, I definitely liked Poland more – it was my first time at Worlds."
Canadian Dance Organization
CDNC is the only dance competition in Canada that qualifies Canadian dancers to represent Canada at the prestigious IDO World Championships. The International Dance Organization is a World Federation with a membership of over 90 nations, representing more than 250,000 dancers, from six continents. The IDO is the "Olympics" of dance with gold, silver and bronze medals awarded, with flags in the background, and the winning national anthem played.