“I never knew that dance could take me this far, or what the impact it has on people could be.”
Those were the words of Teva Martinson, a junior at Grantsville High School, and an active participant in all forms of dance, including ballroom dance, contemporary dance, ballet, and color guard. His dancing began, however, as a child, as he learned the cultural dances from his father’s Tahitian ancestry.
Between that and a few moves across the world due to his father’s Air Force career, it wasn’t until his freshman year of high school that he began to explore dance more fully.
“I’ve always loved the movement of the body and the expression of feeling in dance,” he said. “Color guard was my stepping stone into more modern dance, which then led me to branch out even more.”
Both his color guard coach, Lisa Arnold, and his dance company and ballroom coach, Alexis Leonelli, knew that he was going to go far with his talent.
“He’s only been dancing, really dancing, for two years,” Arnold said. “But he’s a natural. He’s not concerned about what people will think about his dancing. He lets himself feel that music, and he doesn’t let anything stand in his way. Color guard gave him his foothold in dancing and he’s taken it far.”
“He’s a gifted student. His movements are always fluid and he has a strong desire to improve and perfect his technique that serves him well,” Leonelli said. “As with all great dancers, he has the ability to feel the music deeper than the beat or counts, you can actually feel his connection to the music.”
Martinson describes his dancing as a way to bring an emotion directly to an audience, and let them experience it firsthand through him. He and his dance company team are currently working on a dance number called “Cancer,” depicting all the various ways the disease affects people every day.
Dancing, of course, comes with its challenges, such as the uncommon sight of boys participating in dancing programs in high school, but Leonelli explains that Martinson’s bravery helps him overcome those.
“He’s brave enough to always be who he is, to break down barriers,” Leonelli said. “He’s made it easier for others to participate in dance as well. We receive praise now for the number of talented boys we have performing on multiple teams.”
Martinson also recalls the physical challenges he faces with dancing.
“There are body aches and soreness, as well as the energy it takes to practice and perform,” he said. “It’s hard pushing yourself that much more, to do that much better, to be a better dancer.”
Those challenges give way to growth and knowledge for Martinson, who explained that he learns every day from dancing and watching others give their all on the dance floor as well.
“It’s like I just have mental files about all the moves and techniques I’ve learned from myself and from watching others, and I get to combine them together into something new,” he said. “It’s about showing how you put yourself out there, and how you improve and grow each and every time.”
His coaches also insist he conquers his challenges through his constantly positive attitude about dancing, and life in general.
“I can’t ever recall a day that I saw him upset about something. He has this enthusiasm not just for dance, but for his whole life,” Arnold said. “He’s always happy and kind, and it bubbles over into everything and everyone around him.”
Both of his coaches have high hopes for his future in dance both on a collegiate and professional level.
“The color guard team and I are always joking that we’re going to haul him down to ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ auditions next time they’re in town,” Arnold said. “He’s so fluid and experienced in so many forms of dance, he’d have a great shot at being a professional.”
Martinson shares the hope that he’ll be able to push for a career in dance as long as possible.
“When I first started in dance company, [Leonelli] helped me realize how far I could go, that I could push for the stars,” Martinson said. “I can give everything on the dance floor, and let myself have no regrets in life. I hope to accomplish as much as I can while my body allows it, and then I’d love become a teacher and a choreographer, and still be able to express myself and teach others to do that as well.”
Martinson plans to spend the rest of this year considering the different dance programs colleges have to offer and then putting all his effort into auditioning for his top pick of schools during his senior year.
Each year, dancers attend the Utah Dance Education Organization performances, usually held in March at the University of Utah. Juniors and seniors like Martinson have the chance to attend workshops and visit with other colleges about their dance programs. Martinson says it provides a great opportunity and challenge for dancers to push themselves and see what’s available for them, and he looks forward to participating.
And on the off chance that dance doesn’t work out for Martinson, he’s got a plan for that.
“I love math,” Martinson said. “I always tell everyone that if dance doesn’t work out for me then I’ll become a math teacher. It clicks for me, and I’d love to show others how to understand and solve problems.”
But it seems unlikely that Martinson will need to resort to a back-up plan. After competitions, colleges have already approached Martinson on opportunities and scholarships available if he were to perform on their teams. Arnold and Leonelli say that with his talent, physical strength, flexibility, and passion for dance, they’re excited to see how far he can go.
To Martinson the hours, the energy, and the challenges that all come with dancing are well worth whatever happens in his future as a dancer.
“I get a warm sensation knowing that I’ve chosen the right thing to do in life,” Martinson said. “That I can open myself and others to new experiences, makes me happy.”