Not too early to dream, dance

A brother, 10, and sister, 6, share hopes of becoming nationally known performers.

SUMMER In Carroll County

August 21, 2005|By Jill Stone | Jill Stone,SUN STAFF

HE HAS won two awards from a national dance company and two regional awards. He has performed in eight theater productions and acted in several television shows.

And he will be starting middle school later this month. His sister also has won two national dancing awards and three regional ones. And she's ready to enter the first grade.

Cody Cooley, 10, and Kylie Cooley, 6, are working on their dream of becoming nationally known dancers.

"They're the driving force," said their father, Randy Cooley of Sykesville. "This is what they want to do."

One of their dance instructors, Nichole Savage, 29, owner of the Savage Dance Company in Sykesville, said, "You can see the drive, the energy, the passion" when they dance. The Cooley children have been dancing at Savage since its opening about three years ago.

Debbie and Randy Cooley said they found it difficult to find an activity that interested their son. After failed attempts with soccer and T-ball, they discovered that he loved to dance.

"When I did dance, I could open up myself; I could perform - other sports you can't do that," said Cody, eating string cheese in the family's living room.

His father said Cody "fell in love with the stage at a very early age. At 4 years old, he knew what he wanted to do: He wanted to perform and be in the entertainment field. It's rare to have that kind of focus."

Since then, Cody has appeared in several theater productions, including dancer-choreographer Debbie Allen's production of Dancing in the Wings, performed in the spring at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Cody's resume includes performances in Cinderella, The King and I and Rapunzel, all staged around Maryland. He was also chosen to act in a Discovery Channel documentary, Lost in the Wild.

He said tap is his first love, followed by hip-hop and lyrical or interpretive dance.

Kylie said she prefers jazz. She began dancing at the age of 3, learning dance moves from Cody.

"It's really fun. It has a lot of energy," Kylie said of jazz dancing, while swinging her legs as she sat on the living room coffee table. "It's really cool to be dancing on that stage all the time."

Kylie credits her dancing skills to the lessons at the Savage Dance Company and to the personal lessons with Cody.

"He critiques me and gives me things to work on," she said.

Cody has high praise for his sister.

"I think she can be a great dancer," he said. "I think I can help her get where she wants to go."

There's no question about their goals.

"I want to be on Broadway and get a really good background and open up a studio," Cody said, with Kylie nodding her head excitedly. "I hope to share my experience and dance ability with other children across the world."

Kylie agrees, saying that she wants to open a studio with her brother after her experiences on Broadway.

"We're going to run it together," she said.

The parents, who live about five minutes from the dance studio, also applaud Savage for their children's success.

"I love to be given the opportunity to work with them and push them to their highest level of ability," said Savage. "As a teacher, you need to know your performers, and I know that Cody and Kylie have that passion."

The dance company has about 12 boys and 280 girls enrolled, with four boys and about 50 girls on the performance team.

The team consists of children who want to dance competitively and have a dream of pursuing dance as a career. Cody and Kylie are members.

Although Savage understands the need for rehearsals and practice, she said she puts her students' education first. She asks that the children show her their report cards and wants them to "have a life outside of dance."

Between playing with their two dogs, Ace and Maddie, their three birds and their three cats, Cody and Kylie love to read, write, and put on plays for their parents.

Cody is a straight-A pupil and will be entering sixth grade at Sykesville Middle School in a few weeks.

Kylie will be entering first grade at Winfield Elementary.

Their parents said they have to follow a few rules in order to attend dance classes. They need to complete their schoolwork, help around the house and be courteous.

"If anything slips, dance class is the first to go," said Randy Cooley.

"And believe me, it works!" added Debbie Cooley.

Between the chores, Cody enjoys movies such as The Matrix and Star Wars, and Kylie loves to sing along with The Little Mermaid.

But they don't consider dancing a chore.

"What's interesting is that they dance so much," Randy said. "Whenever they have down time, they are dancing."

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