Forget “Dancing with the Stars” — the Olympics of dance is just around the corner, and Zachary Kelley could very well tap his way to becoming one of the world’s best.
The former Buckleyite started dancing when he was eight, and now he’s heading to the International Dance Organization’s World Tap Dance Championships, hosted in Riesa, Germany, from Nov. 26 – 30.
It’s a long way to come from the Bonney Lake studio he started at.
At first, he said his parents were reluctant to let him dance, even though he was inspired by his sister.
“It wasn’t a normal thing for a young boy to be asking for dance classes, especially coming from a small town like Buckley,” Kelley said.
When they finally acquiesced, he not only found he loved it, but that he was also very, very good.
“Zach was always persistent, never gave up,” said Rebecca Pike, his first tap instructor at the now-closed Michelle’s Studio of Dance. She added that she wasn’t at all surprised her former student has found his way to the most prestigious of international stages.
“Once he started tap, you could tell it was something that he loved, and he took every avenue he could to pursue it and go further,” Pike continued.
By the time Kelley graduated from White River High School in 2012, he was training at the Allegro Dance Studio in Kent. The studio has turned out many nationally-known dancers like Adam Agostino, who took the national Teen Male Dance Champion at the 2012 West Coast Dance Explosion in Las Vegas, and Kennedy Griffin and James Ades, who earned their sex-respective Teen Dance of the Year awards at the Hollywood Vibe National competition in Anaheim, California, in 2018.
Still, Kelley was operating under the assumption that dancing would be more of a hobby than a career.
“I was convinced I wanted to be an orthodontist, and was super passionate about it,” he said, adding that he attended the Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, graduating with a major in pre-med and minor in dance education. But “I was spotted at a dance workshop, and I started getting phone calls after that class, and one job just led to another, and now I’m where I am because of it. I chose my passion and ran with it.”
Kelley’s career took off quickly after graduation. In three years, he’s gone on to dance in 11 countries, and has worked with kids who have gone on to achieve their own stardom on “So You Think You Can Dance”, the “World of Dance,” “America’s Got Talent”, “Dance Moms:, the Disney Channel, and the Radio City Rockettes.
But with the World Tap Dance Championships right around the corner, the spotlight is swiveling back on him.
Team USA is comprised of more than 70 dancers who are preparing for various events, from formation and groups to triples and duos.
But each country may only enter three dancers into the solo competition — and that’s what Kelley is training for.
“Solo is the most prestigious spot to get,” he said.
His dance, which is clocked at 2 minutes, 15 seconds, was developed by Anthony Morigerato, an Emmy-nominated choreographer who Kelley considers the best tap dancer in the world.
“It’s probably the most monstrous dance I’ve ever learned,” Kelley said. “I’m super excited to compete for the whole world to see it.”
Interestingly enough, another Team USA solo competitor will be someone Kelley trained himself.
To keep up with what’s happening at the dance competition, Kelley will post updates on his Instagram at @zacharywkelley_. To sponsor Kelley’s trip to Germany or to learn more information, head to www.zacharywkelley.com/about.
IDO is expected to stream the competition, either on their website at www.ido-dance.com/ceis/webHomeIdo.do or its YouTube page.