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I'd like you to meet Milpitan Jackie Lee, an energetic young lady whose dance prowess is growing and gaining recognition. Lee started dance class at the tender age of 4, a time when, she says, "I was shy and clumsy." With effort and drive, she shed her bashful awkwardness and is now a rising star. She noted, "Although I'm still a generally shy person, I know I can be myself and let my emotions run loose when I dance. Dancing has built up my self- esteem and has shown me that success is the product of hard work and willpower."

Lee, 16, began dancing when her older sister, Tiffanie, was enrolled in the Jensen School for the Performing Arts. She remembers, "When my parents enrolled me, I really didn't like it. But now, I'm glad I continued to dance. It's done so much for me. Jaques D'Ambroise once said, "Dance is your pulse, your heartbeat, your breathing. It's the rhythm of your life..." Dancing is my passion. It's what keeps me alive and sane ... as I grew up, I started to understand what dance really meant to me. I found that when I dance, I feel the music through my ears, the air as it drifts through my body, and a feeling of joy that pulses through my spirit whenever I take to the floor."

The Presentation High School senior maintains a 4.0 grade point average and hones her mind with honors classes in math and French. She's part of the school's dance team where she engages in her favorite styles of tap and jazz and lyrical dancing, and is also a member of the local


troupe Fancy Dancers.

With credit to Mandy Jensen, of the Jensen School of Dance, Lee was recently named Miss Dance of California (Chapter 13), Dance Masters of California. Her title allowed her to compete in the Miss Dance of America 2009 Nationals Competition held in our nation's capitol. In February she was awarded First Place Soloist at the United Spirit Association Regional competition. And in March, Lee placed third as Junior Soloist, at the Contest of Champions Nationals in Florida.

Like any serious dancer, Lee practices nearly every day. "Every week I usually put in 13 to 14 hours of dance. When my dance team starts to prepare for competitions in the fall, I usually dance 17 to 18 hours a week." Along with dance, her days are heavy with school and homework. She lives her philosophy: "Go for your dreams. Work hard and pursue your dreams with the best of your ability."

She put that developed discipline to good use at the Nationals competition in July. The contest was a two-week experience of interviews, dancing tap, ballet, jazz, acro, point and lyrical (a soft jazz, flowing to words), and a solo talent dance evaluation. Mandy Jensen choreographed her solo piece. "I did a lyrical routine to Kelly Clarkson's ÔBecause of You' (a cappella version). When I was searching for music for the competition, I heard the a cappella version of ÔBecause of You' and I fell in love. It's so beautiful and touching."

The hard part of preparing for Nationals was practicing; "working to make my solo a national level." The fun part: "Getting to know people from around the United States. Knowing them on Facebook and keeping in contact."

Lee, daughter of longtime residents Aileen and Andy Lee, is hardworking and determined. She allows, "I know what I want to do in life!" She plans to attend the University of California at Los Angeles to major in nursing or dentistry. She'd like to double major in dance and eventually own her own studio. She knows the joy of dance and would like to share that joy with others. And before then, keep an eye on the small box, for you're likely to see Lee on the reality television program, "So You Think You Can Dance" raising the roof.