FALL RIVER — When Kaylee Millis took a master class at Artistic Dance Studio a couple years ago, owner Marissa Tavano spotted a rare talent, one that prompted her to hire Millis on the spot as a dance teacher.
Turns out, Tavano has a great eye, if the judges of “So You Think You Can Dance” are any measure.
On the Fox Network show that aired Monday, Millis wowed the judges, who sent her straight to the show’s Dance Academy, bypassing a second audition round.
“To be on the show, especially them airing my audition, is something that I didn’t expect would happen. Going into it, I just wanted to do the best I could,” said Millis, who goes by the name Impavido (meaning fearless in Italian).
Fifty dancers from the New York audition and 50 from Los Angeles are selected to compete from the Dance Academy in Los Angeles. As the show progresses through September, the competitors will be narrowed down to the top 10, and the audience will vote for their favorite.
Impavido, 19, has been teaching contemporary, open hip-hop and master classes at Artistic Dance Studio for two years. Tavano, who owns the Fall River dance studio with her husband, Keith Silva, first saw Impavido dance at a master class there with Beyonce choreographer James Alsop.
“From the moment I saw her dance, I just knew she had a gift that you just can’t teach anybody. She has her own style and it’s different from anybody I’ve ever seen,” said Tavano. “On top of that, she’s the most genuine, humble, kind-hearted person that you’ll ever meet.”
If she wins the season, Impavido could take home the $200,000 prize, but just getting on the show so far has given her a rare platform.
“I just want to share as much as possible. I want to reach as many kids, as many adults as possible; any race, sexuality, gender. I just want to relate to as many people as possible. That’s been my goal since Day One,” said Impavido. “To be able to do that on such a large platform is something that’s super unique and special to have that opportunity.”
A native of Weymouth and current resident of Kingston, Impavido excelled at athletics (basketball, soccer, track, and swimming) from a young age, said her mother, Andrea Millis.
“At age 8, we put her in a small dance studio and at age 8, she decided she wanted to be a dancer,” said Andrea Millis. She started out with the traditional classes — ballet, tap, jazz at the studio, combined with study at the Orlando School of Ballet in the summer.
“She’s actually good at everything she does,” added Tavano of the popular Artistic Dance Studio instructor. “There’s nothing that she’s not good at.”
“We had rules for her when she was little: No running. No jumping. And no flying, because she thought she could fly. She would try to fly and now we’re allowing her to fly,” said Andrea.
By age 15, Impavido was breaking school records in track, but she wanted to follow her dream of becoming a dancer so she convinced her parents to let her be home-schooled so she could focus on her dance classes. “I definitely think that was a big step, but if I hadn’t taken that step I wouldn’t have created the opportunities I have for myself.”
When her family and friends from Artistic Dance Studio saw her sent “straight to academy” on the show on Monday, they cried, said Andrea Millis. “I’m so happy for her,” she added.
Impavido said she entered the competition in the contemporary category because it allows her more flexibility. Though she’s not allowed to discuss the experience so far, Impavido said the show’s Dance Academy entails “choreography rounds, challenges and whatever the judges want to throw at you.”
Next week on the show, another 50 dancers will be sent to the show’s Dance Academy. From there, fans back home will have plenty to watch over the next couple months on the TV series as Impavido competes week by week.