Shayla-Rose Smith lives for dance.
During lockdown the Year 8 Hilltop School student, 12, entered two online international competitions and had two wins and a second for her categories.
Dancing since the age of 2, Shayla-Rose has sat dance exams in all genres of dance and always achieves the mark of Distinction. In recent years she has travelled throughout New Zealand competing in dance competitions as a soloist and with the three troupes she currently belongs to. She has won many medals, trophies and scholarships.
Unable to get to the dance studio or compete during lockdown, Shayla-Rose turned to online competitions as a creative outlet.
Her mum Amanda Smith filmed Shayla-Rose performing a jazz and lyrical solo in their family living room for the Next Star world competition based in London. One week later, Shayla-Rose learned she had won first place for the intermediate category and Next Star published Shayla-Rose's dance entry on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
Encouraged by her Next Star win and while the country was still in lockdown, Shayla-Rose entered Follow Your Dreams, a Melbourne based online dance competition.
She won first place for her lyrical dance, placed second for her jazz dance and qualified for the nationals to be held in Melbourne in January 2021. Determined to attend, Amanda set up a Givealittle page to offset the estimated $7000 expense of flights, accommodation and approximately $1500 in entry fees.
Dance HQ dance teachers Tori Henson and Karen McNaughton have taught Shayla-Rose for the past five to eight years respectively. Karen says Shayla-Rose's love for dance is infectious.
"Shayla is so humble and supportive to all her peers and is an amazing role model for the other girls aspiring to dance.
"Follow Your Dreams is a massive opportunity to dance amongst the best and to experience what it could be like if she were to pursue dance as her career," said Karen.
Attending dance class five or six days a week and practising seven days a week. her mum Amanda says it's common for Shayla-Rose to dance from 3.30pm to 7.30pm each day.
"Sometimes there is a five minute gap between classes or practice, sometimes there is no gap.
"Lockdown has made Shayla more eager to enter competitions," says Amanda.
Some competition entries close after five minutes of opening online and Amanda says she is always on her phone to make sure Shayla-Rose has an entry.
Shayla-Rose says she fell in love with dance from the start.
"I don't think I will ever want to stop," said Shayla-Rose.
The freedom she feels and being with her dance friends are what she enjoys the most.
"I enjoy the music, love learning new styles and getting used to different types of choreography. I like having my teachers and they have supported me ever since I was really young."
Doing solos was a bit nerve-racking when she first started out. Used to dancing solo now, Shayla-Rose says having to be confident for dance has made her confident in other areas of her life as well, such as when she has to speak in front of the whole class at school.
Over the years she has missed a few sleepovers due to being away for dance competitions but says her friends are really happy for her to have qualified to dance in Australia.
"March to October is competition season and we are away most weekends," says Amanda.
You can support Shayla-Rose's quest to compete in Australia at givealittle.co.nz: please-help-with-shayla-getting-to-experience-this.