Emily Roberts-McCue dances for her daddy
Emily Roberts-McCue will be one of 43 young dancers representing Canada at the 2012 World Dance Championships in October. But it's an unseen presence the 17-year-old New Westminster ballerina hopes will charge her chassé, and propel her plié across the expansive stage in Frankfurt, Germany.
Since Roberts-McCue first took up ballet at Kirkwood Academy when she was six years old, her father David McCue had been a doting dance parent. He ensured she got to her lessons on time, drove her to and from competitions. Sometimes he tried to arrive before the end of her sessions so he could steal glimpses of her through the studio door.
"He was always supportive," says Emily.
On Jan. 29, David died suddenly of a heart attack.
Five days later, Emily danced in a competition, to honor his devotion to her passion, to soothe her grief.
Through the rest of winter and well into spring she kept competing, locally, then regionally. And she kept winning, eventually earning private auditions that would lead to her selection to Canada's national dance team.
"It still hasn't hit me that he's gone," says Emily of her late father, himself an accomplished musician who once played guitar with the 1960s country band Evan Kemp and the Trail Riders. "I'm still dancing for daddy."
Having survived the grueling process that whittled thousands of aspiring dancers down to the 43 who will perform in Frankfurt, Emily is now looking ahead to the competition which she says is like the "Olympics of dance."
That means a lot of extra practice.
In addition to her usual schedule of lessons, as well as preparing for her 10th season in Royal City Ballet's production of The Nutcracker, Emily puts in six-hour days on weekends at the Tri-City Dance Centre in Coquitlam, working with six other dancers who will also be traveling to Germany.
All of the dancers are also fundraising to help offset the $4,000 it will cost each of them to travel and compete at the Worlds. They've organized bottle drives, hot dog sales, a raffle, a zumba night and a pub night.
"You have to have a lot of stamina," says Emily, who graduated from New West secondary school last spring.
She says she's hoping she'll be able to make connections at the competition that would get her into a dance company. But mostly she's hoping to make her late father proud.
"I wish he could be there to see it."
Emily and the other members of the Tri-City Dance Centre that are part of Canada's national dance team are holding a pub night at Mickey's Pub in Coquitlam on Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m.