After pandemic disappointment, young P.E.I. dancer gets second chance

Kai Wheeler dances almost every day at Down East Dance Academy. (Victoria Walton/CBC - image credit)
Kai Wheeler dances almost every day at Down East Dance Academy. (Victoria Walton/CBC - image credit)

Kai Wheeler was devastated when the COVID-19 pandemic spoiled her opportunity to attend a prestigious dance school in Ontario two years ago, but has made the most of her second chance.

"I did audition before COVID at Quinte and had intended on going and had made it in, but then COVID happened and kind of ruined the plan," said Wheeler.

"It was really devastating. I was, like, super excited and like so pumped, and then my dreams were crushed."

But with provincial borders opened up Wheeler auditioned for Quinte Ballet School's summer program again, and once more won a spot.

Wheeler has a sense of what she is in for, having previously attended a summer program at the National Ballet School.

"It's just a new experience. Every dance teacher teaches differently," she said.

"It's just really good to have new experiences and meet new people from all around the world."

'Ballet is the foundation'

While her national experience is in ballet, Wheeler does a variety of dance styles: jazz, acro, lyrical, contemporary, hip hop.

"Ballet is the foundation of every dance," she said.

"Ballet technique is like the most important because it's in every style."

Wheeler dances just about every day at Down East Dance Academy in her hometown of Montague. She also teaches acro style to a group of nine- to 12-year-olds, as well as musical theatre to five- to eight-year-old kids at Havenwood in Charlottetown.

Wheeler began dancing when she was seven because a friend suggested it as a way to spend more time together.

'My heart is having fireworks'

She is now at an age where many of the dancers she started with are dropping out, moving on to other interests.

But she doesn't see ever leaving dancing behind.

"Whenever I step on stage it just feels like my heart is having fireworks," said Wheeler.

"I usually look for my mom, and I give her a little cheeky smile. I start dancing and I'm in the zone and it's just like, adrenaline. It's so awesome. I just love dancing so much."