Bellevue dancer earns title in Las Vegas

Dancer Harris Weiskopf, a Bellevue teen, isn’t interested in slowing down anytime soon.

Harris Weiskopf, a title-holding dancer and Sammamish High School student based in Bellevue, says that he was “a lot” when he was a kid.

“He was literally always dancing — even in diapers,” his mom, Hope Weiskopf, said.

There has hardly been a time in Harris’ life when he hasn’t been obsessed with the art. When he was 5 and a half, he enrolled in his first class: a recreational hip-hop course. (“He wanted to teach it,” Hope said.) By 6, he was a burgeoning tap-dancer. By 7, he was familiar with jazz.

It was around that age that Harris, who was also playing soccer at the time, realized that dancing had become his biggest priority.

“I was like, ‘I don’t want to do anything except dance,’” he remembers thinking. “I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else,” adding that he joined a competitive dance team soon after.

A little more than five years ago, Harris joined Allegro Performing Arts Academy, a studio based in downtown Kent, after realizing that he needed to build a stronger technical foundation to improve. The Weiskopfs were sold by its solid reputation. The studio had been known to train professional dancers and it had a larger number of males on its roster, which isn’t always common.

“I love it there,” Harris said of the studio. “You’re always motivated to keep pushing yourself because the people around you are so phenomenal. I think when you’re surrounded by people who are committed and pushing themselves, you feel motivated to do better yourself, just rising up to the occasion always. There’s a reason to keep coming to the studio.”

Harris said the team he’s on at Allegro is trained to be as well-rounded as possible to become effective “vessels” for choreographers. Whether it’s tap, jazz or ballet, you need to be proficient at it.

“We mainly focus on everything,” Harris joked.

Technically, the summer is Harris’ offseason. But Harris said that it’s more accurate to consider it training for the pre-season. In the summer, a dancer enrolls in a certain number of required classes in every style offered at Allegro. Each class is about an hour and a half, except for hip-hop, in Harris’ case. Hope likes that the studio does classes by level, as it taps into a dancer’s strengths in a specific area.

It can be difficult to balance education with dancing. During the school year, Harris has typically been required to spend three nights a week at the studio, usually from 4:15-9:30 p.m. Expectedly, hours can vary depending on what’s being worked on, and intermittent competitions usually occur on weekends when they do pop up.

“In the moment, I’m constantly overwhelmed,” Harris said. “But when you find that time for yourself … it feels so good. And then I’m sitting there — I’ll have one day off — and I’m like, ‘I’m good.’ I can’t sit still for too long.”

To adapt to Harris’ dancing career, Hope has made a big effort to both ensure that he‘s able to stay on top of his studies and also get the same experiences as his peers, like going to football games and dances.

In middle school, she arranged with his teachers to figure out a routine. In eighth grade, Harris tried out modified home school, which necessitates that a student takes their core classes on location and then work on electives at home or online.

“But teachers like when you’re in your seat,” Hope noted. “It was definitely a trial and error.”

For his upcoming junior year, Harris, who attends Sammamish High School, will be doing Running Start, a program that enables 11th- and 12th-grade students to take college classes early, at Bellevue College. Because courses are spread out, and because he’ll have Fridays off, he and Hope are crossing their fingers that his new schedule will be accommodating to his dancing.

Harris has been competing for years, and listed events affiliated with Hollywood Vibe, Spotlight and others as being memorable. But a particular highlight for him happened just this summer. Recently, Harris won a national title in Las Vegas, where he spent three weeks.

“This is a joke but, somebody once said, ‘nothing you love is worth three weeks in Vegas,” Harris said with a laugh.

While there, Harris took part in a Velocity nationals competition and garnered the Teen Maximum Velocity Artist Male of the Year prize, which comes with a rigorous auditioning-and-performing process contingent on a strict point system. Depending on the circuit or convention, Harris said that an equivalent to the title might be a dancer of the year or core performer award.

Harris had other memorable experiences while in the city. During his stay, Harris was in a Now United video choreographed by Kyle Hangagami, a Los Angeles-based dancer and choreographer with more than 4 million YouTube subscribers, as part of nationals.

Harris isn’t planning on slowing down. On the agenda over the next few months are his summer dance classes, learning choreography for an in-the-works group dance, musical theater and tap and an impending contemporary group piece. Harris hopes he can squeeze in a trip to Los Angeles, too: he loves the environment there and is intrigued by its professional prospects.

Harris said that when he graduates from high school, his goal is to move to the city and build his résumé.

“I just want to be able to work,” he said. “I want to be able to do things I want to do.” He added that he would love to tour with an artist or do more commercials, where you often feel like you “get paid to have fun.”

Harris would also like to work more on his clothing brand, which he and his friend/business partner recently started mapping out. He said that they are currently in the process of getting approved a Doing Business As (DBA) application.

“I want to be able to put out the work I want to wear,” Harris said.

Harris knows it’s difficult to make it in the entertainment industry, though. He brought up reservations about networking and the harsh realities of auditioning, noting that sometimes you might not get a job purely because you don’t have blue eyes, for instance.

Hope said that her goals for Harris are “traditional.” But she clarified that that doesn’t mean she wants him to eliminate any of his ambitions. She simply wants him to look at all of his options.

“You don’t have the opportunity to go back in time,” she said.

Hope added that even though the decision is ultimately up to him, she is still encouraging Harris to apply for colleges and take the SAT or ACT to ensure he has multiple avenues to consider going down.

“If you don’t keep an open mind, you kind of close that door,” she said.

Still, it makes sense that Harris would want to hit the ground running (or dancing): his art is what drives him. When asked what career he would pursue if he wasn’t a dancer, he had to think for a moment.

“You stumped me on that one,” Hope said.

“I would have nothing to do,” Harris concluded. “It’s not even like, ‘Well, I’ve gone this far so I might as well keep doing it.’ I have no idea what else I would do. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

Harris Weiskopf at the Tacoma Dome waiting to meet dancer Kent Boyd in 2012. He says this was the day he knew he wanted to dance. Photo courtesy Harris Weiskopf

Harris Weiskopf at the Tacoma Dome waiting to meet dancer Kent Boyd in 2012. He says this was the day he knew he wanted to dance. Photo courtesy Harris Weiskopf