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Gotta dance, gotta jump

Whether it’s on the dance floor or in track and field, Scott Nicholson is a winner. by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Scott Nicholson displays his most recent honors while sitting on the front steps at West Linn High School. His time is well filled with dance, sports and academics

As a dancer, the 16-year-old sophomore at West Linn High School has racked up eight national championships. As an athlete, Nicholson is a standout on the Lions track team in the high jump, leaping to victory at a meet on April 17.

That is a lot of bounding around, but the tireless prodigy is up to the task. Although it is not easy.

Nicholson said, “Dancing and being a student isn’t very difficult when you have the determination in both of them. But when I’m doing track I have almost no time to do anything else. Sometimes it is hard to even get my school work done.”

The dances Nicholson and his partner must perform in competition are the waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble and jive. Just about everything except the Macarena. This would be overwhelming if his parents, Steve and Jennifer Nicholson, were not supporting him every step of the way.

“It has always been fun to watch Scott dance,” said Jennifer Nicholson. “Now that he is competing in the open levels with much more difficult steps, it is amazing to watch him dance. There are a lot of family sacrifices for Scott to dance competitively. But this is his passion and we are happy to support him.”

Beyond some occasional stepping to country western music, Scott’s parents were not big into dancing. That is why they were surprised when he mentioned his desire to try dancing soon after the family moved to Oregon.

“Out of the blue he asked if he could do some dancing, so we looked into the local options and decided to check out the Ballroom Dance Company,” Jennifer Nicholson said.

Nicholson tried it and he liked it. Soon he was taking all kinds of dance classes, and he did so well he started entering dance competitions. He was doing just fine, but then he reached a true turning point when he met his new partner, Maxine Taylor. They were an excellent match physically (both tall and slim), geographically (Taylor lives in Seattle) and they were both greatly ambitious. With Taylor as a partner, Nicholson reached a whole new level of competitiveness.

“I have achieved so much recently because of dancing with Maxine,” Scott Nicholson said. “Before dancing with her I was still competing, but once I started dancing with Maxine I really started improving because of the level she was at and the level the coaches were pushing me to be.”

“Scott has a great partner and they get along really well, which is important,” Jennifer Nicholson said. “One of the hardest things is to find a compatible partner with the same goals. Now that he has that with a partner who really motivates him, it seems the sky is the limit.”

When you are dancing well, it looks like the greatest fun in the world. But beneath the surface, Nicholson is an extremely hard worker. His coaches are of the highest caliber, including Ekaterina Zakharoff, a five-time Russian champion, rising professional star Alexandria Hawkins and Elizabeth Knoll, a former U.S. National champion.

The hours Nicholson puts in are amazing. He practices four or five hours a week working out by himself and goes to Seattle for six or 10 hours on the weekends to rehearse with Taylor.

What makes Scott Nicholson dance? Desire, lots of desire.

“Everyone always asks how hard dancing is and tries to compare it to other sports such as running,” Nicholson said. “But you can’t compare it because dancing is harder than all the other things I’ve done, from hunting and taking down an elk to running on varsity track.”

Nicholson and Taylor have just come off competing in the USA Dance National Dancesport Championships in Los Angeles, where they competed in six youth category events and took first in two of them. They even moved over to the adult events and scored three top 10 finishes.

“Right now my main goal as a dancer is to improve and get better,” Nicholson said. “Maxine and I both hope to go to Blackpool (Dance Festival), which is in England, next year to compete. Other than that I just want to get as good as I can and see what happens.”

Maybe, as his mother says, “the sky’s the limit.”




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