OCEANSIDE — Mia Butler has been dancing for most of her life. Now, she is a finalist in a national competition spotlighting the children of military service members and veterans.
Mia, 13, started dancing at the age of 3 and only just started competing.
This year would have been her second year of competing in dance competitions through her studio, Oceanside Dance Academy, but COVID-19 shut everything down two days before the competition season was supposed to begin. Mia and other dancers had spent months practicing dances and solos before, but they no longer had the means to show it.
Mia had worked with her instructor, Anthony Russell, to choreograph her solo dance performance to the song “Rescue” by Lauren Daigle.
Mia said the song reminded her of how she felt when her father was going through his healing process. Mia’s father, Jason Butler, is a retired Marine who was injured in Afghanistan.
“He’s a wounded warrior,” said Melody Butler, Mia’s mother and Jason’s wife. “That’s how we got involved in the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.”
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation is an organization that works to empower, support and honor military caregivers, such as family members, who care for wounded or ill service members and veterans at home.
This year, the Foundation hosted a nationwide talent show called “Military Kids Have Talent.” The talent show invited children of service members and veterans to submit performances and other talents to be considered for the show.
Mia submitted her solo to the talent show. She was selected as one of two finalists from California and had her performance aired during a virtual watch party on July 31.
“I didn’t really expect it,” Mia said. “It was kind of mind-blowing that I got chosen as a finalist.”
Mia said being chosen as a finalist helped her feel more confident in her abilities as a dancer. She hopes to one day become a professional dancer or a dance teacher.
Currently, Mia is not able to attend dance classes physically due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Everything is done through Zoom,” she said. “It’s different but we appreciate it because it gives us a tiny sense of normalcy seeing our instructor and our other friends in class.”
For Mia, dance is a way for her to express herself.
“When you dance you can express feelings through movement,” Mia said. “If I’m feeling down or happy, I pick a song and I dance to it.”
Mia chose “Rescue” as the song for a solo in honor of her father.
“I am completely honored for her to think of me and to tribute the dance in my honor,” said Jason Butler, Mia’s father.
Melody Butler, Mia’s mother, said it has been a “blessing” to watch as her daughter uses dance as a therapy and how it has touched her dad’s heart.
“He has worked so hard to get where he is through his injuries, it’s just so touching,” Melody said. “I couldn’t imagine a bigger blessing than to be able to witness this.”
Everyone can vote to choose the talent show’s winner by Aug. 16. To vote for Mia, text “MI” to 1-512-855-6431.