Photo by Erin Baiano

2018 Cover Model Search Finalist Sydney Burtis

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It's obvious to anyone who's seen her tap that dance is Sydney Burtis' passion. But in many ways, dance has also become a form of therapy for Sydney: It's helped her find her voice, both inside and outside the studio. "Dance allows me to express things about this world and things within myself," she says. "It's the expression that really resonates with me."


Sydney first started dancing at age 3, after being diagnosed with mild autistic tendencies. Her mother enrolled her in a ballet class with the hope that it would improve her communication skills. Ballet classes did help Sydney overcome her shyness, but she didn't find her deep-seated connection to dance till the following year, when she started taking tap. "Tap dancing is all about the relationship of rhythm and sound to movement," Sydney says. While verbal communication has always been a struggle for her, "when I was tapping, I realized I could communicate without words," she says. Over time, Sydney added jazz and contemporary to her repertoire, and slowly began to develop the confidence to compete. Soon, she was a regular on the comp circuit, receiving recognition and awards for her technical ability and artistry. Last January, she was named a YoungArts finalist in tap dance and a silver award recipient.

In the summer of 2017, Sydney and her teacher, Marshall Ellis, co-founded the Orlando Tap Festival, bringing professional tappers from across the country to teach dancers in central Florida. "Dance has helped me become the person I am, and I wanted to give that opportunity to others," Sydney says.

One day, Sydney hopes to establish a dance company that will seamlessly fuse tap and contemporary, her two favorite styles. This fall, though, she'll be checking a different dream off her bucket list: moving to NYC, where she'll have even more opportunities to express herself through dance. "I've been going to the city since I was little, so it already feels like a second home," she says.

"Sydney has a powerhouse work ethic coupled with genuine care for what is asked of her as a dancer. Be it performance, rehearsal, or class, I can count on her to execute with integrity, passion, precision, attention to detail, and a connectedness that's sophisticated beyond her years. She embodies a pure joy for dance that breathes life into her every movement, and she has always carried herself like a true professional."—Michelle Dorrance, tapper and choreographer

Fast Facts

Birthday: August 7, 2000

Hometown: Kissimmee, FL

Favorite TV shows: "Friends," "Grey's Anatomy," "So You Think You Can Dance"

Nicknames: Syd the Kid, Squid

Hidden talent: "I can recite pi out over 60 decimal places!"

Go-to stress reliever: "Listening to jazz music and coloring in my coloring book"

Dance crushes: Sarah Reich and Melinda Sullivan

Her dancing in three emojis: 💚 🎼 😄

If she weren't a dancer, she'd be a: sign language interpreter or food critic

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