Dance student small in size, big in talent

Therrien Keippala

Therrien Keippala of Clarkston, 8, has the chance to represent Michigan in Dance Masters of America, a 10-day dance competition and convention in Anaheim, Calif., this June. But he needs help to get there.
“We have to fundraise almost all of the expenses, which are estimated to cost over $6,000 if just Therrien and I go and about $8,000 if the family goes,” said his mother, Brandy Keippala. “While Therrien will receive some scholarships for the event, it doesn’t cover all the expenses and none for his family.”
They are a single income family with a special needs son, Cal.
“We really want our entire family of six, five family members and Cal’s service dog, because my entire extended family lives in California,” Brandy said. “My grandmother is getting older and I’m not sure my children will have many more opportunities to see her. My mom, sister, and nephews live a mile from the convention hotel as well. My dad is about 8 miles away while my various aunts, uncle, cousins, and my brother live about 25 miles. I’m hoping to have a great big family reunion while we are there. We haven’t been to California in years due to finances and Cal’s inability to travel, which has changed greatly since he was blessed with a service dog from Paws with a Cause.”
They are hosting a Pointe Shoe Decorating Fundraiser and Contest on March 24 at Spotlight Dance Center, 7183 N Main Street, # B, with Session 1 from 4-5:30 p.m. for kids 4-9 with a parent; and session 2, 6-7:30 p.m. for pre-teen to adult, 10 and over. Suggested donation is $20 per participant, which includes one pointe shoe and decorating supplies. Call or text Lizz Kaarlela at 428-250-3538, or email
Therrien is a third grader at Andersonville Elementary. He started dancing in recreational hip hop classes while in preschool, and took more classes when his sister started dancing as well. He takes about six classes a week at Spotlight Dance Center.
His solo is “Thomas O’Malley” a musical theater dance based on the movie Aristocats and was choreographed by Elizabeth Kaarlela. This is his first year on the dance team at Spotlight and his first ever solo.
The regional competition was Feb. 2-4 in South Lyon and included interview, rehearsals, and solo performance. Therrien won the title of Master Dance of Michigan 2018, and also won the interview portion of the event.
He will be traveling to Anaheim, Calif., from June 28 through July 8 for the DMA (Dance Masters of America) convention and competition. The 10-day event will include interview and talent presentation for the title of Master Dance of America.
“Therri really loves all the friends he makes at dance. He also loves that dancing helps him so many other ways like math, learning beats and counts and such, and hockey – ballet is awesome for hockey players,” Brandy said. “He is a really good teammate and always takes time to congratulate other dancers. I think he enjoys being the only boy on the team a bit. It does give him a ton of extra attention, but he would love if more boys tried dancing. He is always saying he wasn’t born to be fit into a box and he just wants to try everything.”
He won first overall for his solo in the Mini Competitive division at Dupree Dance Competition in Dearborn, and his group dances, lyrical and tap, took second and third overall. Follow Therrien’s journey on his Facebook page, Master Dance of Michigan Therrien Keippala, or on Instagram @tKeippala.
– Phil Custodio

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