TONAWANDA - When Jeremiah Martinez was 3 years old, his mother enrolled him in a tap dance class to help his motor skills. Twelve years later, his love of and devotion to dance led him to win fourth place in a recent national solo dance competition in Hollywood, Fla., sponsored by American Dance Awards.
Martinez, a sophomore at Cardinal O'Hara High School, admits that tap dancing is his favorite, even though his dance background also includes acrobatic, jazz, musical theater, ballet, hip hop and contemporary dance.
"I like the feel of (tap)," Martinez said. "It's fun to do and you can do different things and styles with tap."
Over the years, Martinez has taken part in team and studio competitions regionally and nationally. This year's competition was his first as a solo performer.
"The performance was about two and a half minutes long and my costume was black pants, white shirt, tie and vest - and black shoes," he recalled. "It's easy for guys to get ready, just comb your hair and put on a costume. The girls have costumes, hair and makeup."
Martinez takes lessons up to four hours every other day at David DeMarie Dance Studio and the American Academy of Ballet.
At O'Hara, Martinez carries a full academic load, is a member of the school's volleyball team, has time to do homework and from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., take dance lessons. He also starred in the school musical last spring.
"Dancing has given me a sense of time management, as well as people skills, and improved my concentration," Martinez said.
He is the son of Juan and Shannon Martinez of the City of Tonawanda and has a younger brother.
"My mom was a dancer and she encourages me. My dad is props manager and knows everyone at the studio," he said.
Martinez' goal is to attend a college which would offer a double major in dance and musical theater, where he would study to become a professional dancer and performer.
"I'd love to go to New York City - the hustle and bustle, the theater, the path I want to follow."
American Dance Awards was founded in 1979 with the concept that competition would be an educational tool to inspire dancers and their teachers to be the best they could be.