And all of China does too

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: JANE KELLY - Lake Oswego dancer Shannon Kelly, 13, is a contestant in the TV show So You Think You Can Dance China. This is a shot from the TV shows website.

Lots of teenagers think they can dance but Lake Oswego’s Shannon Kelly can prove it. The 13-year-old is a competitor in the popular TV show “So You Think You Can Dance China.” At press time she had made it through two rounds of the competition and was headed back to China for the next round.

Shannon started taking hip hop dance classes at Westside Gymnastics in Tigard at the ripe old age of eight as a summer activity while her parents were at work. She enjoyed dancing but didn’t get serious about it for a couple years, when she switched to MVP Dance Elite in Beaverton and added ballet classes to her class list.

“She’s not naturally talented,” Jane Kelly, Shannon’s mother, said. “She really worked at it. Her mentor, Lorena Aranda, said ‘I see it in you.’”

With the typical focus and effort Shannon brings to her academic studies, her hip hop quickly improved. In fact, her dancing improved so much that last year she was named the Maximum Artist junior female champion at the Velocity National Dance Competition and has spent this past year touring with Velocity Dance to share dance performance and educational workshops with dancers around the country.

Shannon was discovered by Kumari Suraj, aka “The Queen of the Waaking Nuevo,” who is credited with bringing the African American form of street dancing to “So You Think You Can Dance” in the U.S. The dance form originated from 1970s Los Angeles disco dancing, and Suraj has developed an international dance community through her choreography, workshops, master classes and performances. Shannon was part of a performance group Suraj gathered in Portland.

When a friend working with “So You Think You Can Dance China” mentioned they were looking for dancers for the second season, Suraj suggested they contact Shannon; she was a talented dancer and of Chinese heritage — she would be a perfect contender. The show directors contacted Shannon, who shared videos of her dancing and an invitation was issued for her to come compete on the Chinese version of the show.

Shannon explained that the Chinese version is run somewhat different from the US show. First off, to compete in the US show, contestants must be at least 18 years of age. The Chinese show has no age requirement; Shannon at 13 was one of the youngest dancers to compete.

Judging the competition are Hai Qing, a principal dancer and Chinese film star, Jin Xing, a contemporary dance queen, Aron Guo, whom Shannon said is the Justin Timberlake of China and James Fang, a ballroom dance choreographer who also is the artistic director of the show.

From more than 200 dancers she made the first cut to 57 dancers. Round two cut the contenders down to just 10 dancers.

“I learned lots of new things,” she said. “It was like nothing I’ve ever done before.” She said the language was an issue, as was her age.

“Partnering with older guys way in their 20s and dancing to love songs was awkward,” she said. “But I met amazing dancers and was pushed so much.” She has formed lasting relationships with many of the contenders.

To view Shannon’s first round performance visit

The Kellys were not certain when the second and subsequent rounds might air.

“It’s not as organized as you would expect it to be,” Jane Kelly said.

Shannon would love to pursue a career in dance but is a little hesitant to not follow the family’s tradition of science careers.

“Science is our family,” she said. “But I’d like to dance because it is what I love.”

by: STAFF PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - As of press time, Shannon had successfully completed two rounds of the dance competition and was to return to China for a third round.
By Barb Randall
Staff Reporter
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