Keagan Capps Has a Passion for the RhythmSep 02, 2020
PHOTOS COURTESY OF NBC/UNIVERSAL "WORLD OF DANCE" AND PENNY CAPPS
As her friends and family in Moore watched back home, 13-year-old Keagan Capps turned in a series of captivating performances that took her all the way to the semifinals of NBC's "World of Dance" competition. Capp's dazzling blend of multiple dance styles with her otherworldly flexibility left the celebrity judges (Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough, and Ne-Yo) amazed.
While everyone has marveled at the level of maturity and confidence the teenager has displayed on the toughest of dance stages, Keagan has been working toward this moment for a lot longer than people might suspect. In fact, Keagan began dancing right around the time she learned to walk. Her earliest memories of dance go back to when she was two-years-old, and her mother would come in after a day of work.
"We would turn on music in our living room," said Keagan, "And I would just, like, improv for my mom and dad. Then I would make my dad pick me up, spin me around and dance with me."
Her mother, Penny Capps, owns the Pointe Performing Arts Center in Moore. With such a strong foundation of dance in her life, Keagan began entering dance competitions when she was nine-years-old, placing high and winning national competitions. Keagan says her passion for dance comes from a love for music that's hard to explain.
"There's just something about music, for whatever reason," Keagan said, "It doesn't even have to be a contemporary song. It could be literally any song ever, and I'm just, like, moving, without even thinking."
That passion and her uncanny ability to deliver powerful, emotional performances is what led to her being offered an audition for the fourth season of "World of Dance," a show that Keagan has followed intently.
"My mom got the call back in September, asking if I would like to audition. So, we flew out to New York two weeks later for that audition, and I got the call in December that I'd made the show," said Keagan.
The show was shot in February and March, with a surprise appearance by the celebrity judges early on in the process.
"We were told we weren't going to see them on the day of the first round, so we were all surprised when they walked in," said Keagan. "The whole thing was just such an amazing experience. I loved being on that stage with all these people that inspire me so much."
The competition at this level can be intimidating for even the most experienced dancers. Keagan says it helps that she already knew some of the others on the show.
"Savannah Manzell and I have been friends for a while since we both do a lot of competitions," said Keagan. "And I've actually met some of the others before, too. Everyone was so nice and friendly, so that feeling of being intimidated went away pretty quickly."
If you saw Keagan dance on the NBC show, no one would blame you for thinking SHE was intimidating to the other dancers in her division. As J-Lo, Derek, and Ne-Yo all pointed out at various points over the show's season, Keagan has a very intense persona when she's in performance mode. Keagan says that's just part of her personality and focus when she's performing.
"It's funny because my personality is really kind of bubbly," said Keagan. "But when it comes to dancing, I just have this different mode that I move into. It's like one of those things where I turn on a different part of myself. So, I guess I come off a little more intimidating than I really am."
That intensity could be clearly seen in her semifinals performance, a dramatic interpretation drawn from the May 2013 Moore tornado. It was a powerful performance that drew from a variety of dance styles. The dance was choreographed by Keagan's coach, Becca Newman.
"We only had about two weeks to work on it," said Keagan. "Normally, we have more time than that, but this was quick because we had just made it through the duels. So, we came right back home and started choreographing and trying to capture what it felt like, what it sounds like, and the mindset of being in the middle of something like that."
Keagan and Newman's goal was to communicate through dance what the moment felt like in real life. For Keagan, who was six-years-old when the tornado roared past her home, the memories are still pretty vivid.
"I remember the day was beautiful, but my mom said a big storm was coming," said Keagan. "We went into our laundry room and had a mattress over us. My dad, like a true Oklahoman, went upstairs to look out the window. And then it was over, and there was debris everywhere."
The power of that dance, which was performed on a foggy stage with tornadoes on screens in the background and wind machines tugging at her hair, comes close to what Keagan longs to accomplish through dance: making a genuine emotional connection with the audience.
Keagan said, "It all just felt like it was becoming very real rather than it just being a dance. And for me, that's what makes music and dance so special and powerful. That moment when it all blends together and becomes something that, hopefully, will inspire others through a shared story."
It's the story-telling component of dance that energizes Keagan as she thinks about her future as a dancer.
"I love the idea, especially with instrumental pieces, of getting to make up your own story," said Keagan. "I just love listening to the music and creating a story through movement, without saying any words, and just making it come to life."
Keagan has studied a wide variety of dance, including tap, hip hop, jazz, contemporary dance, ballet, and lyrical ballroom. She says her favorites are contemporary and ballet. And her dream is to be a professional dancer, perhaps even part of a ballet company. It's a dream that she hopes could also take her to the prestigious Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at the University of Southern California.
"I heard they only accepted something like 12 dancers this year, so it's tough to get into," said Keagan.
But with such a fantastic run on this season's "World of Dance," it would be underestimating the Moore teenager to think she couldn't pull off cracking the admissions barrier at USC. In the meantime, Keagan is focusing on her schoolwork, her family, going to her brother's football and baseball games, and her dogs, a pair of "Double-Doodles" named Flynn and Ryder (presumably after the hero in the Disney movie, "Tangled"). When she's not dancing or doing homework, Keagan says she enjoys listening to Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, and going to church each weekend. And despite a very high profile run on the popular NBC show, she insists that she's pretty much like most of her friends.
"I am a very intense dancer, and sometimes I guess that comes across as intimidating," said Keagan. "But honestly, I'm just bubbly and humble and human. I'm not as scary as I seem when I'm dancing."