SPRING HILL — One word describes young Jadah Carrera: dedicated.
Jadah, 10, has been dancing since she was 2 years old, and over the past eight years has vaulted into a group that includes some of the best dancers in the country.
It all began for Jadah when her mother enrolled her at Erin's Danceworks in Spring Hill for the youngest class they offer. Erin Messaris founded the school in 1996 and has built the academy into one of the top 50 in the United States, according to Dance Spirit and Dance Teacher magazines.
Early on, Jadah began to admire the advanced students that competed around the country. She wanted to be one of those girls.
After working hard throughout those first few years, Jadah got her opportunity when she was 6 and earned one of the coveted spots on the Erin's Competition Team.
"Some kids just really have a love for dance," Messaris said. "When you do any competitive sport, you have to focus on that sport if you want to truly rise up and become elite. I see that in (Jadah)."
It took little time for her to prove she belonged, earning platinum and gold medals as an integral part of group dances.
All the while, she continued to excel in her academics. Jadah routinely makes the principal's list with straight A's at Chocachatti Elementary School in Brooksville.
Last year, she broke from the mold and had her first solo dance choreographed by new Erin's Danceworks instructor Heather Carter. The song of choice for her jazz dance solo was Orange Colored Sky by Natalie Cole. The accolades began to roll in immediately.
"Heather was one of our first students," Messaris said. "Four or five years ago, she started helping, but last year was the first year she did any competitive dances for us. She knows our values and cares because she feels like it is her studio, too."
Jadah's first stop was the 2011 DanceAmerica Regional Competition that February in Tampa. Her performance netted her first place in her category, high-scoring Petite/Junior Solo, high-scoring Petite/Junior dance overall, and Best Technical Execution for a Petite/Junior. After all those honors, she was nominated for Petite Dancer of the Year.
She followed that up with a High Gold title at the 2011 Masquerade Regional Dance Championships in Orlando later that February. She then went on to compete at the Bravo International Dance & Talent Regional Competition in Orlando that May, where she took home the platinum in Junior Jazz Dance, highest platinum in her age group and fifth place overall out of 82 soloists from around the state. She was even awarded the "Having a Blast" special honor by judges.
Jadah entered the Times' Hernando/Pasco Has Talent competition at Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey. The dance landed her third place as she competed against community singers, actors and other dancers. She won a $200 scholarship for her effort.
Just prior to her talent win, Jadah came away with the crown jewel of her first year of solo competition at the 2011 DanceAmerica Nationals 2011 in Schaumberg, Ill. After winning first place in the jazz category, she cashed in on her nomination from the regional competition by becoming Petite Dancer of the Year, defeating 63 other nominees. For the win, she was given the trophy, a keepsake jacket and a cash scholarship.
"It was an outstanding accomplishment for not only Jadah, but Heather also," Jadah's mother Jenn Publicover said. "With it being Jadah's first solo dance, we have to thank Heather for her talent and choreography in her first year of full-time competitive teaching."
In February, Jadah unveiled her latest solo dance, to Let's Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez. The jazz solo showcase came at the 2012 DanceAmerica Regional Competition in Tampa at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. She was featured at the event because of her Petite Dancer of the Year win the previous year.
She also earned the platinum award at the 2012 Turn It Up! Dance Championships in Orlando. The performance placed her as first runnerup for Miss Junior Turn It Up, winning her another scholarship.
The biggest opportunities are still to come this season as Jadah returns along with the rest of the Erin's Competition Team to DanceAmerica Nationals in Orlando at Disney World on July 3. She will again be featured because of her previous victory and then be part of a ceremony to give the title to the next winner.
That same weekend, the Hall of Fame National Dance Competition in Orlando will take place. She was chosen at a previous Hall of Fame dance convention last fall as an All-Star performer, allowing her to be part of a production at nationals.
After all of these achievements, Jadah has become even more passionate about her craft. Her lofty goals as only a 10-year-old seem surprisingly within reach.
Talk about attending college to study the arts and dance grew into focus after she attended the Camp Pulse talent convention on March 30. The camp is renowned nationwide for the directors and choreographers that attend. Many Disney, Nickelodeon and Broadway stars assist in teaching at the event, including High School Musical and Clerks II dancer-choreographer Nancy O'Meara.
She finds the time to improve her athleticism by taking tumbling classes with former Nature Coast Technical High School cheerleading coach Chris Clifford at Hernando Hurricanes gym in Brooksville. She does all this while dancing five days a week.
"I hope to be on Broadway someday," she said.