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Kayla Mak Went From Her Home Studio to NBC's "World of Dance"

Photo by Andrew Eccles, courtesy of NBC Universal

If she's not already on your radar, up-and-coming contemporary ballet dancer Kayla Mak should be. The 16-year-old has trained from the age of 3 at Westchester Dance Academy in Westchester, New York, under the direction of Kelly Burke (Dance Teacher, October 2015). Of late, Mak has been stunning audiences on Season 3 of NBC's "World of Dance." "The exposure on this show is so great," she says. "I'm so excited to open the door a bit wider for contemporary ballet and television."

On her journey to "WOD" "I've watched the show since the first season. Some of my friends were on it, and I thought it was an amazing opportunity for them. I wished I could do it, too. Then my studio owner got a call saying they wanted some of her dancers to audition for Season 2, so I decided to give it a shot. I went to New Orleans to try out, but I didn't make it. I was disappointed, but I went home and had another year of training and growth. I got to mature in my movement before I got an e-mail from the producers requesting me to audition for this season. I was so honored and felt so ready to finally be on the show. I believe everything happens for a reason."

On the lessons "WOD" has taught her "From the show I learned that confidence is key. I learned to believe in myself and to get out of my head. As a classically trained dancer, I can be very hard on myself. I don't give myself enough credit and even break myself down, but on the show I learned I needed to believe in myself more. I learned to be able to rely on the process and go with the flow. I also learned about musicality and how it moves me as a dancer. At competition, I tend to get corrections about connecting to the music, and how it should move the audience. That was an important critique I got on the show as well. The judges gave me corrections that gave me clarity on how to apply that feedback better."

On the training with her home studio "My teacher Kelly Burke was beautifully trained at the School of American Ballet. She also trained at a contemporary school, so she has experience in both. She infuses her school with both techniques, so that we as dancers can become well-rounded. I dance about 24 hours a week depending on if I have competitions or extra rehearsals or not. I take about three or four ballet classes a week, plus pointe classes, leaps and turns classes, jazz classes and rehearsals. I don't dance on Tuesdays or Sundays unless I have competitions, so that I have a day or two to recover. I'll stick with my studio because I know they have my best interest at heart. They have opened doors to me, and I'm so grateful for that."

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