Siblings Marisa and Ryan Sherk of St. Catharines say they are joined at the hip. They are that rare brother and sister duo who, despite being about two years apart in age, are each other’s best friends. And next week, they will be featured in a virtual concert showcasing some of Canada’s potential future pop stars.
The grandchildren of Niagara-on-the-Lake residents Rick and Susan Sherk will be dancing in the second Virtual Concert Reality program, to be streamed on July 17. In addition to dancing, the pair worked together on the choreography for one of the featured singers, IZZEE, a Toronto native and former member of the Mini Pops Kids ensemble.
Eighteen-year-old Marisa, a recent graduate of Laura Secord Secondary School, has been dancing since she was three years old. She took to it right away.
“I instantly fell in love with it,” she remembers about her first experiences at Dance FX Studios. “My passion for it started growing over the years. I played soccer, and I was kind of into track and field, but dance was always a part of me. It was obvious to me at a young age that this is what I wanted to do.”
Starting off with tap and jazz, Marisa later moved into hip hop. Very quickly she joined the Dance FX competitive team, and began to learn lyrical, contemporary, acro, modern, ballet and pointe styles, some with the Niagara Ballet School.
Watching from behind a studio window was younger brother Ryan, who recently finished Grade 10 at Laura Secord. As soon as he was able to walk, he started to literally follow in her footsteps, emulating Marisa’s dance moves.
“I would see him at home, trying to do what I was doing,” Marisa says.
“I instantly felt a connection to the music and the movement,” adds Ryan. “I would watch her, and when I got home I would move to any music I had around the house.”
The pair progressed to putting on shows at home. They choreographed dances together, made costumes, invited their neighbours and put on shows for them. This was all before Ryan had even begun to take dance classes with Marisa once he turned four.
The bond through dance continued to grow deeper between the siblings. At the studio, on stage, in competition, at home and at school, Ryan and Marisa were always together.
When the elder sibling moved on to Laura Secord in Grade 9, leaving Ryan behind in elementary school, the daily separation felt strange to them. Two years ago, when he joined her in high school, their talents quickly resulted in many accolades and first place finishes in dance competitions, as both soloists and as a duo.
Secord dance teacher Haley Penner says their strong relationship is obvious to audiences when they perform duets together.
“They know each other so well that when they create dances together they are able to build on their strengths, and push each other beyond them,” Penner explains. “They are both highly self-motivated students and they are always looking for opportunities to develop their technique and performance quality.”
Like the Everly Brothers from the music world, siblings whose harmonies were interchangeable, Ryan and Marisa have a certain way of communicating through dance.
“It’s honestly magical,” Marisa says. “There’s a certain trust there. We just mesh really well together, we naturally move in similar ways, and we get along really well. We’re able to dance together, choreograph together. Anything dance-related, everything goes over so well.”
“Even though we were two years apart, we were always in the same age group in dance,” Ryan adds. “We grew up dancing in the studio together, training together. Dance was always a connecting piece for us.”
“When we’re on stage, I feel like our eye contact, our connection is strong,” says Marisa.
Asked to recall a moment when they may have had one of those knock-down, drag-out fights that can be common between brothers and sisters, they draw a complete blank.
“There’s really no moment like that that sticks out to me,” Marisa laughs. “Maybe it’s unique for a brother and sister, but I think it’s just dance that has brought us together.”
“The fact that we both have a passion for exactly the same thing,” Ryan concurs, “and we’ve followed it for so long, definitely makes it more special.”
Marisa will be following that passion in September in the Performance Dance program at Ryerson University (which may soon have a new name. Namesake Egerton Ryerson is credited for designing the model for residential schools). That means the teens will most likely be separated for the second time.
“I’ll definitely miss being around her all the time,” Ryan admits. “But I’ll always visit, and I’m very happy for her. She’s worked so hard and she has such a strong passion.”
He also admits that in two years he may very well follow her into the same program.
Both Ryan and Marisa see themselves making a future life in the dance world, whether it be performing, choreographing or teaching.
“There are so many avenues in dance,” says Marisa. “I can’t pinpoint an exact destination. I think I’m going to see where my journey takes me.”
“We’re so versatile, there are so many open lanes for us,” Ryan adds. “We’ll definitely just see where our future takes us.”
Penner believes they both have the potential to pursue successful careers in dance. Their recent first place win in the virtual Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest non-profit international student ballet competition, in the pas de deux category, would suggest that the future for both could include ballet.
For the upcoming Virtual Reality Concert 2, the pair worked with IZZEE to design routines for her mash-up of her own original songs. Ryan and IZZEE (Izzy Cavaliere) worked together via the group Mini Pop Kids when they were both 12 years old. The group toured across Canada and Ryan was also featured as a singer on their 2017 CD.
The Sherks dance with IZZEE for her number, but also appear in multiple performances during the hour-long showcase. The show’s producers have signed talent to agencies, helped kids to book movie roles, and have been contacted by America’s Got Talent, who were interested in some of their artists.
Virtual Concert Reality 2 is a high energy, slick production featuring more than 12 teen solo performers and more than 35 additional teen dancers from across Canada. The show streams worldwide on Saturday July 17th at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $20 and available at Livecity.tv