Magazine article Dance Spirit

Jessica Raffa

Magazine article Dance Spirit

Jessica Raffa

Article excerpt

THIS FIERY BALLROOM STAR IS BURNING THE FLOOR!

Australian-born Jessica Raffa, 24, has found stardom as a featured dancer with the innovative ballroom company, Burn the Floor. With stage presence galore and an intense work ethic, Jessica has climbed the ranks on a steady route. She began dancing at age 3 and paid her dues in the ensemble for years before moving to the front lines. Fortunately, this never frustrated her.

"My mother used to say I could dance before I walked," giggles Jessica. "And since then I've decided to live by her motto: You can live your life day-to-day not trying or caring and end up insignificant. Or, you can strive for success and leave your mark upon the world."

With this encouragement, Jessica began her journey as a ballet dancer at a local studio. Soon after, she moved on to the Junior Australian Ballet for more serious study. Her passion remained ballet until a ballroom studio opened near her home when she was 9. With this simple change, Jessica's life shifted.

"I always loved ballet, but 1 also didn't know anything else," she says. "I was curious about the new studio. I took my first ballroom class with ballet shoes on!"

But even in slippers, Jessica was hooked. Fortunately, the ballroom world loved her right back. "I found that I caught people's eye dancing ballroom more, even from a young age," says Jessica. "It felt freer to me. I was quite cheeky and ballroom had so much diversity that I never got bored."

So, she began competing regularly with a partner. While on the circuit, Burn the Floor choreographer Jason Gilkison noticed her. Once a year she took a private lesson with him and eventually her hard work enticed Gilkison to offer her a company contract when she was 16. But she still needed to finish high school. Right after graduation she joined the group and became a professional dancer at 17.

Jessica thinks she was hired at such a young age because of her holistic approach to performance. …

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