Zofia Kasprzyk is dazzling audiences and impressing judges with her acro and jazz dance moves at the Canadian National Exhibition’s 27th annual Rising Star Talent Competition at Exhibition Place.
The 11-year-old Stoney Creek native performed her open solo to “Satan’s Little Lamb” in the preliminary round of the competition on Aug. 18 and earned a place in the semifinals for the junior division on Aug. 26.
The competition, which is open to any amateur performer from Ontario, began on Aug. 16 and runs until Sept. 1. It’s divided into a junior division, ages six to 12 and youth division, ages 13 to 25.
“I feel really good about my performance in the preliminary round and I’m excited and happy to be moving on to the semifinals,” Zofia said. “There were 15 people competing in that round — lots of talented dancers and singers — and I was the last one to go on stage, so I’m just really proud.”
Zofia, who began dancing six years ago at Rythum Plus Dance Company and has danced her way to first-place finishes in a number of overalls for her age category in various competitions locally and beyond over the years, submitted a video from one of her dance competitions to the CNE in the spring.
The top five finalists for each division will be awarded cash prizes, with the first-place winners taking home $1,000 in the junior division and $2,500 in the youth division.
Zofia said dancing is about having fun.
“I just love hearing the music and letting my body do what it wants to do to the music,” she said. “I just love to dance. It’s definitely something I want to keep doing for as long as I can.”
Zofia has participated in the Rising Star Talent Competition the last three years, having scored a place in the top three last year.
She said because she’s taken part in the competition before she’s “not as nervous” this time around.
“I’ve done it before, so I’m a little more used to it now. There will be 24 people competing in the semifinals and only eight will go on to the finals,” she said. “There are so many other talented people in my division, so you never know what’s going to happen. I’m just going to go out there, have fun and try my best.”
Mikayla Boccalon also is looking to wow audiences and judges with her talent at the Rising Star Talent Competition.
The 16-year-old Stoney Creek resident will be singing “Rule the World” by Take That in the preliminary round of the competition today.
Mikayla also has participated in the contest before, having earned a place in the semifinals for the youth division last year.
“I am excited to be competing in the contest for the second time,” she said, adding her song will be performed in the style of UK X Factor contestant Ella Henderson. “I’m definitely more confident and have taken the critique given last year to improve my performance this year.”
Mikayla has been singing for six years under the guidance of Teresa Cirillo, owner and director of Studio E in Stoney Creek.
She has gone on to win many first, second and third-place awards at numerous Ontario Conservatory of Music competitions.
Mikayla also has sung both the Canadian and American national anthems at Hamilton Bulldogs games.
“My biggest highlight has been working with Canadian Idol winner Brian Melo in Studio E’s Melotree class,” she said. “Brian has taught me so much and has helped me improve my overall performance quality.”
Mikayla said singing gives her a “sense of freedom” and is an “amazing emotional outlet.”
“I love moving an audience to feel what the lyrics and I are feeling,” she said. “It is extremely fulfilling to share my voice with others and to make them feel what I am feeling.”
Mikayla said she couldn’t have been happier when she found out she qualified for the preliminary round of the competition this year.
“I was excited to get the opportunity to compete again in the contest. Last year’s competition was an amazing experience,” she said. “I’m mostly just looking forward to performing and getting feedback from the judges; the competition is run similar to the Canadian and American Idol shows on television in which a panel of four judges critiques our performance in front of the audience. I appreciate the feedback I get from competitions because it helps me to grow as a singer.”
For Mikayla, the competition also is a chance to do what she loves on stage.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to win,” she said. “Ultimately, I just want to do my best. I hope the judges like what they hear and I am able to continue on in the competition.”