When we first met Sydney Burtis back in April, she already had a resumé most seasoned pros would covet, peppered with competition titles, choreography credits, and even the co-founding of a dance festival. Now, the 18-year-old can add Dance Spirit Cover Model Search winner to that impressive list of accomplishments.
As soon as Sydney laced up her lime-green tap shoes at our photo shoot, we knew we had a star on our hands. She can fuse tap and contemporary dance in a brilliant way thanks to her impressive musicality, but it's her joy that makes her a real standout. You feel it with every click of her candy-colored shoes: Dance isn't just Sydney's passion. It's her life.
These days, the CMS winner is starting the next part of her dance journey as a freshman in Pace University's commercial dance program and honors college. We chatted with the new NYC resident to find out everything that's happened since we last saw her.
What have you been up to since your trip to NYC?
Sydney with her best friend, Lauren Luteran, celebrating high school graduation (courtesy Burtis)
It's been a busy few months! First, I graduated from high school, which was a big step. In May, I danced in a short film called Sound Language, which features a lot of tap legends, including Christopher Broughton. I was actually co-choreographer for the work, and acted as dance captain. I was named Senior Female Honored Dancer of 2018 at National Dance Honors in Las Vegas, and a YoungArts semifinalist. I also got to teach at the second Orlando Tap Festival, the event I co-founded. This year was even better than last year—we had double the number of students! It's been an incredible journey to see how one idea has grown into something so big.
What was your favorite part of the Cover Model Search experience?
Photo by Erin Baiano
It was great to get to know Jacalyn and Shelby. They're two incredible, unique artists, and people I've wanted to meet for a while. I loved bonding with them—and, especially, getting to dance with them! The photo shoot itself was also a highlight. I've been following Dance Spirit and the Cover Model Search contest for I don't even know how many years. Stepping into that room for the shoot was a childhood dream come true—I couldn't believe it was actually happening.
What about college makes you most excited—and most nervous?
Sydney just enrolled at Pace University's Pforzheimer Honors College for a BFA in commercial dance. (courtesy Burtis)
I'm super-excited to be living in NYC, something I've wanted to do since I was a little girl. I spent a lot of time in NYC growing up, and every visit gave me butterflies. I love that now I get to make this place my home. But I'm definitely nervous about experiencing a full winter in New York! As a Floridian my whole life, I'm not used to snow and freezing temperatures. That'll definitely be an adjustment!
What was your voting campaign like?
With two of her students, Angelica Rivera and Makenna Watts, at National Dance Honors Orlando (courtesy Burtis)
I reached out to a lot of my friends, teachers, and tap family. I relied on social media to spread the word—my Instagram, my Twitter, and my Facebook. But Instagram Story was where I put the most emphasis. It was cool to see everyone come together to help me, especially during the last 48 hours, when my numbers skyrocketed. Almost everybody I knew was sharing on Instagram.
Do you have any advice for future CMS finalists?
Dancing her self-choreographed solo "People I'll Remember" at National Dance Honors Vegas (courtesy Burtis)
Soak up every single second of the experience, because it's really a dream to be involved with this magazine. And remember that you were chosen as a finalist for a reason, so embrace all the unique aspects of yourself and let them shine.
A version of this story appeared in the October 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Tap Tap Tapping To The Top."