Chase teen one of three Canadian dancers to win national award

Never underestimate the combined power of practice and passion. Those two elements have carried a Chase teenager to the heights of Scottish dancing.

Kylie Schmidt is one of three young dancers in the country - and the only one in her age group - to receive the coveted 2012 J.L. McKenzie Award, a prize that recognizes skill and dedication.

"It was really hard to believe," said Kylie, who got the good news last week via email.

But those who know the 14-year-old know how hard she has worked to get to this level of competition.

The J.L. McKenzie Award is a premier prize handed out by ScotDance Canada. It's named after James McKenzie, a Scottish-born world highland dance champion who toured extensively during his performance years and is credited with raising the standard of dance in Canada.

Known for his passion and dedication to the craft, McKenzie competed into his late 40s, and won plenty of prizes along the way. ScotDance Canada established the tribute award after he died in 1992 and bestows it every couple of years on three young dancers who exhibit the level of commitment McKenzie showed throughout his career.

Kylie has danced since age four and is among the most dedicated of dancers.

Her mother, Vicki, says Kylie was drawn to Scottish arts and culture ever since she heard an uncle playing the bagpipes at a highland event in Salmon Arm 12 years ago. Kylie was too young to remember, but that competition was also where she met Shalni Prowse, who would later become her dance teacher in Kamloops.

"She just saw it (highland dancing) and said that's what she wanted to do," remembers Vicki.

Kylie says she loves every aspect of highland dancing.

For the J.L. McKenzie competition, she had to perform a dance routine named after McKenzie. She competed the routine with about 20 other hopefuls in Kamloops earlier this year at the Tournament Capital Centre.

"It's a very difficult dance because it doesn't always follow the rules of normal highland dancing," said Kylie of the different arm and leg positions in the six-step tribute piece.

"It's very hard, just having to learn different ways of doing things."

For two months, she practised the dance moves, perfecting each arm hold and leg position. (The competitors also had to write an essay detailing their dance background and knowledge of McKenzie.)

Her commitment paid off. Kylie nailed the dance and scored first place in the 13-to-15 age group.

"It means a lot," she said of the award.

"It means kind of getting my name out there so judges and people will be, like, 'Oh, she's the one who won that award.' It's just so people will know me."

Kylie plans to use the accompanying $1,000 scholarship to travel to Scotland in two years to compete against the world's best dancers.

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