Chicago teen pursues dancing dreams

CHICAGO (WLS) -- When Isaiah Day dances, everything else fades.
He calls the art an "escape for me to get away from the outside world. What I feel when I dance, it's indescribable."

But there was a time, not long ago, when that feeling could have slipped away.
"The name calling would start and people would be like 'oh, you shouldn't be doing that because you're a boy.'"
As day took dance lessons starting in 6th grade, he was ridiculed by peers.
"People would call me gay, or 'you're a girl for doing that type of stuff.'"
But he kept at it, saying he was the boy working splits while others focused on "their 3 pointer."
Then, at a conference with about 200 other dancers around, his life changed.
"He caught my eye going across the floor and I had to find out who he was," recalled Randy Duncan, the dance department director at The Chicago Academy For The Arts.
He instantly knew Isaiah Day had a gift and now helps refine that talent at the private high school in Chicago's River West neighborhood.
The 15-year-old high school sophomore spends each morning in a more traditional classroom.
Then, he trains for "three hours of dance every single day," said Duncan.

The group studies ballet, modern dance and jazz at a rigorous pace that has turned teens into stars.
Alumni of The Academy's dance program have gone on to perform with the Joffrey Ballet, the New York city ballet, Broadway shows and other productions across the world; Isaiah Day dreams of continuing this legacy.
"Dance was something that I was born to do," he said.
Commuting from Hyde Park each morning, the young dancer has a 13-hour school day- but he doesn't notice.
"Makes my heart smile," he added.
As The Academy's head of school Jason Patera will tell you, that passion is uncommonly common within his student body.
"They don't care about what your zip code is or what brands you wear or where you come from. They care about what's your art and how hard are you working on it," he said.
I chatted with Patera in the school's art gallery, with vivid, mature paintings close by.
The Academy offers six majors, with everything from musical theater to film making to jazz performance.

Patera says that diversity creates a unique culture, pointing out that calculus class is filled with opera singers and painters and dancers.
"Bullying is not an issue here, discipline is not an issue here," Patera said.
"I love the people here and I love the community," added Day.
Even uttering words kids rarely say.
"I wish I was at school."
Brushing off detractors, Isaiah Day and his triumph are a reminder about the importance of pursuing big dreams.
"It's such an empowering thing to be able to go and dance it all out," he said.
"Do your thing. You do not allow anybody to stop your dreams," encouraged Duncan, who faced similar challenges growing up.
With a dream and a spring in your step you can go anywhere.
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