When Braya Kluss is not dancing, she is a regular 16-year-old teenager from Terrace – loves Billie Eilish, hanging out with her friends and going out on adventurous hikes.
At other times, she is busy perfecting her award-winning dance moves, practising two to four hours almost five days a week. Kluss juggles between ballet, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary dance and has won multiple awards in the past ten years.
Most recently her solo performances bagged prestigious awards at the Prince George Dance Festival, Terrace Dance Competition and the BC Annual Dance Competition. In the past she also won provincial awards as well as a scholarship from the Pacific Northwest Music Fest.
A part of the Terrace-based Art in Motion dance company, Kluss stepped into the world of dance when she was six-years-old. Since then there has been no looking back. She remembers winning her first dance competition at Prince George when she was nine-years-old, competing against children who were older than her.
“I was extremely nervous the first time I faced a stage but a part of me was a little excited too,” says Kluss.
But slowly as she gained more confidence, the nervousness gave way to excitement and an adrenaline rush. She now loves performing for an audience says the Caledonia High School student. And more importantly, there’s a strong penchant in her to be the best and win.
“I’m a pretty competitive person,” says Kluss and added that it feels good to see the efforts of all her hard work pay off when she wins an award.
Over the years, dance has also contributed to her identity, not just in Terrace but within the region. “I once had some kids come up to me in a mall and say ‘you’re Braya, the dancer’ and the appreciation felt really good,”she says.
Dancing has become an extended rhythm of her daily life. “If I’m having a bad day it helps me relax and if I’m having a good day it adds to my happiness,” she says.
But more than identity, dance has cultivated a strong sense of discipline in her. Dance certainly helped boost her confidence levels, express her feelings better and also taught her the importance of timing, punctuality, teamwork and respecting people.
There are rules to follow if you are serious about dance and her teachers have helped her cultivate values that are intrinsic to the discipline of dance. For instance, she says, “you can’t come to class looking like a mess” and you have to put in the hard work and practice.
Long hours of practice also means that she does not get time to hang out with her friends as often as she would like. And then again, it also means staying up late and putting in extra hours to focus on her academics.
Her family has been very supportive of her endeavours. “My mom is there and present for every competition,” she says and adds a light afterthought, “they’ve spent a lot of money on me!”
Her biggest influences are her dance teachers, Emily Hart and Laura Archibald, and someday she wants to teach contemporary dance. As a dance teacher, she says, the most important thing is to make sure that the students are having fun in the process. And that is something that she wants to incorporate too when she finally takes to teaching dance.
Although Kluss hasn’t yet given much thought to her future plans and career, she finds herself inclined towards wanting to study psychology.
The past year, dancing has been rather challenging with the pandemic changing a lot of how routines are conducted. Dancing with masks on is not easy as it makes breathing harder, but on the bright side, it increased her stamina says the girl with a glass-half-full attitude.
Kluss has a strong sense of determination when it comes to her passion for dancing, even on days when the going gets tough.
“Some days it is a struggle to put in the long hours of practice, but then I remember why I took up dancing in the first place and it helps me spring back.”