Kayla Marie Mingo said when she first tried dance at the age of 3, she wasn’t a big fan of it. Now, she is excelling at the prestigious Edge School of the Arts in Queens, where she takes six types of dance courses and plays piano.
“My favorite part of performing in front of people is doing it with my friends,” she said. “We have a lot of fun when we’re on stage. I also like when the audience claps for me. It makes me feel really good. I also like all of the costumes we get to wear.”
Kayla, 11. who is a sixth-grader at Lynbrook South Middle School, has been taking advanced classes and performing at the Edge school for seven years and playing piano for six of them. She said she first became interested in dancing when she saw her cousins perform. She takes six dance classes there, including tap, jazz, African, modern, ballet and her favorite, hip-hop.
Kayla said she experiences plenty of nerves when getting ready to put on recitals for an audience, but she gains confidence through the many rehearsals at the Queens school, which she said helps her perfect her performances. She said she and her peers also “get silly” to stay loose before big performances, and that she closes her eyes and keeps thinking positive thoughts before taking the stage.
Most recently, she performed “Free to Be You and Me,” a virtual routine that was shown to the staff at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside. The theme of the performance was that people are free to be what they want to be,
Because of Covid, the dance classes and performances have gone virtual via Zoom, and Kayla said her classes are now working on a performance in celebration of Black History Month, which will be presented on Feb. 26.
“I enrolled her in dance when she was 3,” recalled Kayla’s mother, Kelly Mingo. “She actually hated it at first, but she has a natural gift . . . To be able to get on stage in front of hundreds of people, whether it be by herself or with her team and at her young age, she has no idea how important and how huge that is. I don’t think she knows how good she is.”
Kayla’s father, Timothy Mingo, said his daughter has shown tremendous improvement in her skill set over time.
“For me, it’s the growth watching her from when she first started to where she is now,” he said. “ It’s actually weird to me that she does all these dances in front of all these people yet she’s kind of shy. I’m definitely proud of her.”
In addition to dancing and playing piano, Kayla said, she also loves other aspects of the arts, including drawing and painting, and she said she hoped to remain in the arts for years to come. As for performing, she added, it can be a lot of hard work, but it pays off.
“It’s a lot of work getting ready to perform in front of people,” she said. “We have lots of rehearsals with our teachers and spend a lot of time making sure everything is perfect.”