Bailey Rae started taking gymnastics this year to complement and improve her dancing skills.

STORY AND VIDEO: Twirling with purpose

Sixteen-year-old Bailey Rae is a talented dancer and gymnast with big dreams.




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Sixteen-year-old Bailey Rae is a talented dancer and gymnast with big dreams. The Prince Rupert high school student is full of ambition, one of the rare teenagers who knows exactly what she wants to do with her life.

Rae just wants to dance. The specifics are unclear right now, but she knows it will involve dance somehow.

“I want to perform on a cruise ship as a dancer and I want to travel the world with that and see where that takes me,” she said.

If her drive for dance is still strong at that point, Rae might go to school for dance. But as of right now, she doesn’t have any desire for further schooling, because “it’s not her favourite.”

“My ideal career would probably be work on a cruise ship for one to two years and then be a choreographer around Canada.”

Rae clarifies that school is good and she encourages it, but she prefers doing something physical like dance or gymnastics.

She has some pretty serious goals, noted her gymnastics coach, Bill Tyrwhitt.

“She sets a good example in the gym, she trains hard all the time, she’s got goals and she’s just an all-around athlete,” he said.

Gymnastics is new for Rae. She only started in September as a way to help complement her dance career, particularly in acro, which is a style of dance that combines classical dance technique with precision acrobatic elements.

Every time Rae talks about her goals, you’re left with the feeling that she is someone with a strong sense of direction, something that’s not very common.

“I feel like I’m always looking to try something new and get higher so I thought gymnastics was a good change to try and build some strength and learn new tricks,” she said.

She’s been building lots of muscle early on from gymnastics, especially upper-body strength. On the floor, Rae’s favourite things are the tumbling and she said she has a little passion for the beam.

“I really like the beam. I can’t wait until the new stuff arrives for the gym because then I’ll be able to do more advanced tricks on the beam,” she said. Rae also started dance later in life than most kids. She began training at the Dance Academy of Prince Rupert when she was 10-years-old and went competitive the year after. Her eyes light up when she talks about why she loves dancing.

“It’s just the movements, the reaches and all the powerful movements. It speaks to me in a way,” she said, almost poetically.

Between dance (eight hours a week), gymnastics (six hours a week), weekend work at Fukusaku, school and going to the gym, Rae has zero free time. As a senior dancer, she would have had some spare time if she hadn’t taken up gymnastics, but she said she’s OK with it.

So how does Rae balance all of that at just 16?

“I don’t,” she joked, then follows that up. “I find that I have to be really organized.”

Rae stays driven to do all that because she’s a competitive kid and always wants to be on top. She discovered her drive when she first started dance. Because she was so much older than other kids at the level she was at, she pushed herself in order to get to be with the kids her age.

“I had to work super hard and my teachers notice when you’re working hard and putting in the effort and improved a lot, so they start to move you up,” she said.

She had to work double time just to get to the competitive level she wanted to be at, but Rae wouldn’t have it any other way. She said it made her the dancer she is today.

It’s that kind of determination that Tyrwhitt said makes Rae special.

“She’s already an elite athlete in terms of being a dancer and she’s choosing to use her days off to come train in gymnastics three times a week, which sets her apart. That level of dedication is hard to find,” he said.

The future is an open book for the skilled Rae. She now has opportunities in gymnastics as well as the dancing world. Tyrwhitt can foresee her becoming a gymnastics coach, if she so chose, or even pursuing it competitively. But he just wants her to get out of gymnastics exactly what she wants and he plans to help her achieve her goals.

“I’m going to help her by encouraging her and giving her the conditioning exercises that I know she’ll do because when she’s given something, then she takes it seriously and she works it,” he said.

Gymnastics and dancing go hand-in-hand as it is, and Tyrwhitt believes gymnastics will give Rae an edge to push her to the next level.

She is already accomplished in the dance world. Just this year at the Prince George Dance Festival, Rae won a three-week scholarship to dance in Vancouver. But it’s just the beginning for the Rupert athlete, whose perspective is sure to lead her to trying her hand at many new challenges in life.

“I always find that I have to reach a new goal. I can’t just get to where I think I can end. I have to keep going and going or I find no purpose in it. I have to keep trying something new.”