The teenage dance champ with the bulging trophy cabinet has her sights set on flipping her way to the ultimate prize, Disco Kid
At 12-years-old Florence Harper started dancing relatively late after being wowed by a girl performing a dynamic routine in a school show. Although her mum wasn’t keen, Florence ‘begged her’ and she relented. Once enrolled at Steptoes dance school in Quinton under the inspirational tutorship of principal Donna Shepherd the extraordinary journey into the unique world of freestyle dance began. Firstly, put all thoughts of Strictly from your mind because the style of dancing Florence excels at is nothing like it. Imagine the most insane show dance and times the energy and tricks by 10. Team that with the bold and highly expensive outfits that are like something out of futuristic Bruce Willis film Fifth Element and you’re somewhere close. As our picture of Florence, now 15, suggests her style of dancing is highly acrobatic. Florence competes in two categories – Freestyle which is fast and furious performed to hyper techno beats. Then there’s Slow – Florence’s favourite – which is more elegant and lyrical. Florence trains for 10 hours a week and although she was athletic before she began dancing (she was on the gym squad at school so definitely no slouch!) she admits dancing pushed her further having to work hard on flexibility and strength. That said, she started to show promise straight away and some of the hardened dance mothers would say to Florence’s novice mum, “she’s going to be really good. You can tell”.
Most girls start dancing way before they reach double figures, but late starter Florence began catching up to the highly experienced girls and doing well in competitions. So much so that she caught the attention of a sponsor, designers of the dancer’s elaborate outfits, A Bizarre Obsession run by Karen Whelan. They began sponsoring Florence 15 months ago and it’s proved a good move. Although plagued by injury for a few months – she’s broken metatarsal bones in both feet – Florence came back stronger and more determined and started winning trophies. The moment people realised that Florence had something special was last year when she was crowned winner of the intermediate category at the Eurodance championship in Burnham-on-Sea beating 90 other dancers to the title. Now promoted to the highest and hardest level, Prem Champ in the under-16 category, Florence has stepped up a gear. With GCSEs in the summer and choices to make about A-Levels, Florence’s school, Edgbaston High School for Girls, has been very supportive of her dance commitments. Accepting that training might take a slight backseat while she navigates her way through her exams successfully, Florence has her head screwed firmly on. Given that generally freestyle dancers retire at the age of 23, education is all the more important. Florence is studying dance at GCSE naturally and probably will at A-Level too, so it’s part of life on multiple levels. Her ultimate dance ambition is to win the biggest competition in her chosen discipline, Disco Kid at the famous Blackpool Tower Ballroom which is a huge championship. Competing at Eurodance at Breen Sands in April first with Disco Kid in December and GCSEs in between, it’s going to be a busy year for the talented teen. We’d invest in a bigger trophy cabinet. Just saying.