In a scene overflowing with contemporary dancers, Olivia Rehrman is a rarity: her focus is traditional jazz. “I have clean lines and my movement is strong but flowy,” Olivia says. “Jazz suits me.” Onstage, she may be lifted during a series of pirouettes and then suddenly throw herself to the floor before popping back up to her feet and delivering a mischievous grin to the audience.

Olivia, 20, started dancing in preschool, when her mom enrolled her in tap and ballet. She switched studios regularly, trying to find the perfect fit near her hometown of Atlanta, GA, and eventually ended up at Dance Arts Centre, a jazz-focused school. She moved in seventh grade when her dad’s job took her family to McKinney, TX, where she continued to train at various studios, including Academy of Dance Arts.

As a senior in high school, Olivia was named a 2009 YoungArts finalist, a prestigious honor, which led to an opportunity to work with choreographer Bill T. Jones as part of an HBO special documentary series called “Masterclass.” The YoungArts honor also helped Olivia finalize her post-graduation plans. Finalists spend a week in Miami taking master classes and workshops, and giving performances. While there, Olivia met other dancers who were planning to attend college. “When I saw my very talented peers wanting a degree,” she says, “it confirmed that college was a smart decision.”

In high school, Olivia spent her summers at the Arizona Jazz Dance Showcase at the University of Arizona, where she is now a sophomore dance major. “I was drawn to Arizona because it’s not a conservatory,” she says of the highly selective school. “The dance program is run like a company.” The schedule is rigorous, but she loves it. “I can’t wait to go to class every day,” she says. Her dedication has paid off: She was selected to assist choreographer Liz Imperio at last year’s Jazz Showcase.

This summer, Olivia will apprentice with River North Chicago Dance Company, an opportunity offered to her solely upon the recommendation of her teacher—she didn’t even audition. Eventually Olivia would like to be a member of a touring jazz or contemporary ballet company. “I want to be able to see the world before I settle down somewhere,” she says.

Fast Facts

Birthday: February 18, 1991

Signature dance move: Pirouettes. “On a good day I can do eight.”

Dance crush: Desmond Richardson. “He has a hot bod! And he’s an amazing dancer.”

On her iPod: “I’ve recently become obsessed with oldies—I’m really into Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Ben E. King.”

Favorite food: “My mom’s macaroni and cheese”

Favorite book: Eat, Pray, Love

Favorite movies: Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club

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