copyright the Chronicle August 6, 2014
by Bethany M. Dunbar
DERBY — At age 19, Kendra Perkins was no stranger to national dance competition. She had been there four times before.
July 7 to 12 was her fifth time at the Sheer Talent competition, and she came home from Las Vegas with a titanium medal. Her score was 298 out of a possible 300 points from three judges.
“I came off the stage and I was bawling,” she said. She thought she had done badly. A perfectionist, she often reviews videos of herself dancing to try to improve. It turns out she did pretty well, even though she wasn’t satisfied herself.
Ms. Perkins danced to a song called, “I’m Here.” The dance was choreographed by her dance instructor, Krista Grenier of the North Country School of Dance in Newport. It is expressive, active, and tells a story. It combines ballet-style moves with modern steps.
Although she has been a dancer almost all her life, ballet is somewhat new to Ms. Perkins. In Las Vegas she had the chance to take an intense, week-long ballet workshop during the same trip when she competed.
“I was only en pointe for seven months,” she said. Others taking the workshop had been dancing en pointe — on the tips of their toes — for three years.
“My feet hurt a lot,” she said, laughing. But nothing an ice water bath could not solve.
Ms. Perkins got the opportunity to go to the national competition by doing well at the New England regional competition, held in Springfield, Massachusetts. Of the competitors there, 30 were chosen to go to the nationals in Las Vegas.
She had been there before with other dancers, and this time her parents, Ray and Mary Perkins, decided to accompany her.
“I love Las Vegas,” she said.
She likes the heat.
The family took a side trip to Hollywood, which Ms. Perkins also loved. Her parents were less enamored — especially with the Los Angeles traffic — but they enjoyed their time with their daughter nonetheless.
When Ms. Perkins was little, she loved dancing but not necessarily ballet.
“I think I understand the importance of it now,” she said. One of the instructors at the North Country School of Dance is Vladimir Rojé, originally from Bulgaria, who is a principal dancer for the New Jersey Ballet.
Another instructor is Allison Manning, a former student of the North Country School of Dance, who comes back in summers to teach tap and modern dance.
The Perkins family actually moved to Florida for a time, partly in order to help Kendra get more opportunities for dancing. They moved back because the opportunities at the North Country School of Dance were actually better.
Ms. Perkins is a student at Lyndon State College and does some teaching at the North Country School of Dance, as well, with younger students. Her goal is to do some professional dancing and to teach dance.
Asked if she remembers when she knew she wanted to dance as a career, Ms. Perkins shook her head.
“I never liked not dancing,” she said. “I’m constantly dancing.”
When she is doing sedentary homework, for example, she will likely be practicing tap steps with her feet under the table.
Her father said he remembers her saying, at about eight years old, that she wanted to get a purple Volkswagen bug with “Born to Dance” emblazoned on it.
“Last summer I did go to an audition for a Disney cruise line,” she said. She stayed with a friend, Chase Gosselin, in New York City and had a wonderful time. She didn’t get the job but will try again, most likely.
“I made it to the third or fourth round,” she said.
On the day Ms. Perkins had her solo performance in Las Vegas, the judges watched 200 dancers. Ms. Perkins said the house is always packed, except sometimes for the very young dancers who are called Small Wonders. She said she remembered how it felt when the house was not full and she was dancing as a very young girl, so she likes to go watch the young ones and support them.
Ms. Perkins likes to act as well as dance, and she has acted with Vermont Family Theatre, QNEK and at North Country Union High School. She was also in local productions of Chicago and The Spidey Project.
Asked what she does besides dance and perform, Ms. Perkins answered, “Well, I sleep a lot.”
She also likes watching dance shows and dancing on YouTube.
When she is teaching dance to youngsters, she encourages them not to be as hard on themselves as she typically is.
“I just tell them to just have fun,” she said.
This is the twenty-fifth year of the North Country School of Dance. Ms. Perkins said the area is lucky to have the talents of both Ms. Grenier and Diane Colburn, Ms. Grenier’s mother. Ms. Colburn performed in Chorus Line and Hello Dolly.
“They have touched a lot of kids’ lives,” said Mary Perkins.
contact Bethany M. Dunbar at [email protected]
For more free stories like this one, please see our Sports page.