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Lehi, Mapleton youth ballroom dancing to Paris competition

December 5, 2017 GMT

To look at them in their street clothes, one wouldn’t see that Marcelo Fitzgerald and Kamri Peterson are top ballroom dancers.

Marcelo and Kamri headed to Paris this week to represent the United States in the World Champion Amateur League Dancesport competition. By the way, Marcelo is only 10 and Kamri is 9.

Kamri was constantly in motion Friday as she answered questions for the Daily Herald — stretching, dancing to the music playing in the background, bouncing on her toes. Marcelo was a bit more calm, a solid complement to Kamri’s energy. Yet both dancers said they were both nervous and excited to be headed to the international competition.

“We don’t assume we’re going to win. Our goal is to go as far as we can in the competition, as long as we’re having fun,” Kamri said, as her feet did a few dance steps.

The dancing duo is very aware of how fierce the competition will be this week — they are going up against teams that practice ballroom dancing almost like a full-time job. Kamri and Marcelo said they practice ballroom about four or five hours a week. The rest of the week Kamri takes ballet, tap, jazz tumbling and acrobatic dance, and Marcelo take ballet and acrobatic dance. Kamri is a fourth grader at Maple Ridge Elementary in Mapleton, and Marcelo is home-schooled in Lehi.

“As long as we practice hard enough, we don’t have to worry,” Marcelo said.

Surprisingly, most of Kamri and Marcelo’s friends don’t realize that this duo is capable of dancing on an international level. Marcelo’s mother, Carola Martinez, said for them “it’s just normal for them,” so it’s not something they brag about.

“When they first started together, we didn’t plan this. We never thought it was going to end up like this,” said Raymond Fitzgerald, Marcelo’s father, of heading to Paris. “They both just got so good.”

Marcelo and Kamri have both tried other activities and sports, their parents said, but they both just love dancing more.

“If I were to give her a choice of play time and going to dance, she’d choose dance 10 out of 10 times. This is her play time,” said Kamri’s dad, Colby Peterson.

The two have been dancing since they were three years old, but only paired up for ballroom a year and a half ago. Marcelo started ballroom with a different partner when he was 6 years old, but as his instructors saw his talent, they suggested Kamri. Kamri only started ballroom just a little bit before she paired with Marcelo, but said she’d been wanting to do ballroom for a while.

“I loved it, and then I got my amazing partner, Marcelo,” she said.

They’ve experienced a giant learning curve during their time together, but they seem to handle it all with a poise beyond their young ages. Ballroom dance competitions are unique in the dancing world, because all competitors are on the floor at the same time. Marcelo told of experiences being bumped into and hit in the head by another dancer’s outflung hand.

“But if we get bumped into, we just keep going. And if someone is in our way, we’ve been taught to to go around them,” Marcelo said, as Kamri demonstrated.

“You have to just go with the flow,” Kamri added.

Marcelo and Kamri qualified for the international competition in Paris as 2017 Amateur Preteen Latin Finalists at the Brigham Young University National Danceport Championships in May.

Since then, they’ve been training with their instructors, Sasha Altukhov and Cheyenne Murillo at Strictly Ballroom in Orem, specifically for Paris.

“It was a lot of hard work for them. It was definitely a journey to get here,” Martinez said.

The families fly out Tuesday and arrive in Paris Wednesday. Marcelo and Kamri will dance Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and then the families will do a little sightseeing for a few days after before heading back home.

Because really, how many people get the opportunity to dance in Paris?