Warwood School sixth grader Payton Nickerson is determined to become a professional dancer.
At only 11 years old, it seems she’s well on her way.
Nickerson will take a New Orleans stage on July 5 in an attempt to be named “Junior Miss Dance of America.” She said she is confident she’ll take the title, and that confidence has been earned. Nickerson has already been named “Petite Miss Dance of Ohio.” Nickerson claimed that title in 2015 in Newark, Ohio.
That same year she traveled to Boston where she finished as first runner up in the “Petite Miss Dance of America” competition. She narrowly lost to North Carolina resident Brenna Goebel. Nickerson said she has since become friends with Goebel. Now, the two will compete in New Orleans for the “Junior Miss Dance of America.” Nickerson earned a trip to the national contest by winning “Junior Miss Dance of Ohio” in February.
“I look forward to seeing her as a friend and a competitor,” Nickerson said. “I’m pretty confident, but I’m a little more nervous about this one because it’s so far away. I won’t have as much support as I usually have, because a lot of my friends can’t go. But, I have my parents (Jennifer and Brandon), a lot of grandparents, aunts and uncles coming. The support I have is incredible.”
Nickerson began taking dance lessons as a 2-year-old at the Turn It Out dance studio in Bellaire. She’s trained in ballet, tap, jazz, point, lyrical and acrobatics, among others. She said jazz is her favorite because it is the style in which she can best express herself.
“I can smile, and I can really get into what I’m doing,” she said.
Nickerson also noted that she did not inherit her talent or passion for dance.
“No one in my family was a dancer,” she said. “I’ve been trying to figure out where I got it.”
However, Nickerson does know with 100-percent certainty that dance takes dedication and determination. She also knows that it can be painful.
“I’ve trained very, very hard to get where I am,” she said. “I have broken toes, and they hurt. One of my toes was purple during the last competition… Once you start (dancing) you don’t even notice, though. It’s worth it.”
Although she likes to laugh about it, Nickerson admitted that dance has resulted in another problem with her feet.
“They smell so bad!” she said. “I don’t know why, but they do. My dad has to roll down the window.”
Warwood School history teacher Mark Lindsey has witnessed Nickerson’s determination first hand. He said she’s as focused in the classroom as she is in a dance competition.
“She’s a star student,” Lindsay said. “Payton works well with others, and she’s always on task. She’s creative, and she has an excellent work ethic. Any teacher would love to have her as a student.”
Nickerson is as proud of her work as a student as she is of her work as a dancer. She said she most often gets all As on her report card, and she’s still a bit annoyed that she recently received a B in her favorite class, which is history.
“I got a high B,” Nickerson said. “I made a silly mistake (on a test) that I could have fixed. I got an A on the last report card.”
Nickerson said she loves her teachers at Warwood School. Lindsay is her favorite, but she also loves Shawna Safreed.
“Mr. Lindsay comes across as a little strict at first, but once you get to know him he is so funny,” Nickerson said. “He’s so organized. He cleans his room before every class, I think. And, Ms. Safreed is so much fun to be around. She is all about kindness and treating others how you would want to be treated.”
Nickerson loves Warwood School, which she has attended since Pre-K. She said her experiences at the school have been quite positive, and she looks forward to her next two years at the school.
“I love the people, the staff and the students,” Nickerson said. “Warwood is great.”
But, Nickerson said she also looks forward to being a student at Wheeling Park High School. She said she is well aware of the fine and performing arts programs offered at the “Palace on the Hill.” She said she eagerly anticipates dancing on the stage of the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center as a Patriot student.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I can’t wait to get up there and do everything.”