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(Posted 1 p.m., May 24)

Orléans dancer in a class by himself
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

After nine years at the Leeming Danceworks studio in Orléans, Kevin Howe is ready to move up to the next level and try his hand at the wonderful world of professional dancing. Fred Sherwin/Photo

When Orléans dancer Kevin Howe gets his first professional pay cheque, he'll have his mother to thank for it and a few other people who helped out along the way.

"When I was five I told my mother that I never ever wanted to dance," says Howe who will be performing in his final year end recital this Saturday night after spending the last eight years at the Leeming Danceworks studio on Youville Drive.

Despite Howe's objections his mother enrolled him in junior jazz class in Trenton where he lived at the time.

"She was taking a class and there was a beginner class at the same time so she signed me up," recalls Howe.

Shortly after, his best friend joined the class and he started to enjoy it more.

"It slowly grew on me after awhile," he says.

After three years in Trenton, Howe and his family moved to Orleans. He went to another dance studio for a year before finally enrolling at Leeming when he was nine.

Shortly after joining the dance studio, Howe did the splits during a jazz class. His teacher immediately went and told Leeming owner Sharon Leeming-Mann.

"I guess she was like, 'You have to see this boy. He has major potential.' And then Sharon sat me down and told me about competitive dancing and that's how it started," says Howe.

Within a couple of years Howe started collecting titles and awards at a dizzying pace. In 2003 he won the Mr. Teen CanDance title and the ADA Teen Dancer of the Year Award at the Ottawa ADA event.

In 2004, he won the Teen Dancer of the Year title at the ADA competition in Montreal and was second runner up at the ADA National Championships in Orlando. In 2005, he teamed up with duet partner Isabelle Proulx and together earned the top two overall scores among duets and trios at the Ottawa CanDance event.

After moving up to the senior division last year, Howe received the top overall solo score, male or female, at both the Montreal and Ottawa CanDance events and two of the top three overall scores among competitors 13 and over at the Ottawa ADA competition where he was also named Male Dancer of the Year.

Through the years, Howe has also been one of the principal dancers in Leeming's group routines which have won numerous awards and registered countless top marks at both the CanDance and ADA competitions.

He has also become an award winning choreographer and for the past three years has taught some of the dance studios younger members.

Not surprisingly, Leeming-Mann is tremendously proud of Howe and the progress he's made since coming to the studio as a nine-year-old.

"I'm extremely proud of him. I don't think I've seen another student come as far, not only from a performance aspect, but also with his creativity and choreography. he's gone through a big advancement especially at such a young age," says Leeming-Mann.

"He's also wonderful with the kids, which is one of the reasons why he'll be so sadly missed, not only among his peers, but also by all the young ones he's competed along side with in our production numbers and the ones he's taught. He's their idol."

Howe will dance competitively with Leeming Danceworks for the last time at the ADA National Championships in Orlando in July where he's hoping to get noticed by some of the major American choreographers who will be there, or at least develop the type of connections that will help him take his dancing to the next level.

"I want to be a professional dancer, there's no question. Are you kidding? That's my dream," says Howe who will be graduating from Canterbury High School this year.

His plan at present is to work in music videos which means he will eventually have to gravitate to Los Angeles. In the meantime, he'll be looking to gain as much experience as possible by taking advantage of whatever opportunities come his way whether they're in Canada or south of the border.

"I'm hoping someone will come up and talk to me (in Orlando) and sort of take me under their wing," says Howe who sounds every bit like a person standing on the edge of greatness. "I'm definitely ready to take my dancing as far as I can go."

Leeming-Mann says Howe possesses all the attributes he'll need to be successful. He's versatile, he can sing and do acrobatics, and he's tall with the type of wholesome good looks that choreographers and producers are looking for.

Besides Leeming-Mann, Howe says his biggest influences over the years have been his father, Toronto choreographer Brian Foley and former Leeming graduate Nick Dummard who has been in a number of Broadway productions.

"Nick was one of the first male dancers I met that I could look up to," says Howe. "And my dad, my dad is an old military guy who's pretty easy going, so he was never the over-bearing type of parent, but he was always there for me. Whenever I needed someone to lean on he was there. And Brian helped bring out my creative side. He taught me how to grow as a choreographer."

Howe is hoping to take all of the influences he's had in his life up until now and use them to be the best dancer/choreographer he can be. Wherever that leads him, only time will tell.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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