COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- In many ways, Caden Grayson is your typical, pre-teen boy. He plays basketball, he loves science -- so much so that he recently placed third in his school's science fair and he wants to be an astronaut some day.
But he has another career in mind also, one that at first glance wouldn't seem to tag along with being an astronaut.
When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Caden does not hesitate: "An astronaut and a Broadway dancer."
Two disciplines that require enough time and effort on their own, much less combined.
But Caden sees parallels that not many might.
"It would probably be the way that you move your arms and legs and the way you would put your body and use the air to make it smooth," Caden explained.
Smooth is definitely an appropriate adjective to describe an 11 year old who has already accomplished so much.
Caden has won all nine of the dance competitions he has entered, including three national titles. He has been selected to the Encore Dream Team and has been awarded three dancing scholarships.
While many of his friends are working on their jump shots or hitting a curveball, Caden countered that dance requires just as much strength and energy as any other sport -- especially working on and perfecting a routine.
"It's like reading a script" Caden explained. "You have to practice it at home, you have to study it and when you come to the studio you have to be able to memorize it and show what you know."
"Every year that you elevate, someting new will come," he added. "Something harder will challenge you, especially if you dance at a competitive level."
"He's like the perfect student," said his dance instructor, Genia Johnson. "He's like a sponge."
For 17 years Johnson has operated a dance studio in Chesterfield, and has seen her fair share of talent. Caden, in her opinion, was born to do this.
"He's very flexible, he retains information for choreography very well," Johnson said. "On stage, his performance quality is just amazing. He's a natural."
Caden is in a class by himself, both figuratively and literally. Of all the students Johnson teaches, only five percent are boys and she said that number is rising. Especially in ballet, which Johnson said is critical to master if students want to do well in other disciplines.
"With that being out there on TV and on social media, all the people sharing all the dance videos, it's much easier for the boys to come in and say, I need to take ballet," Johnson explained.
For his part, Caden said he's never been made to feel different by any of his peers because he happens to very good at, and enjoy, dancing. His message to others who might secretly share the same talents and passions is very simple.
"If your friends think that something is wrong with you because you're a dancer, they're not your true friends," Caden said.
"The only person that can really judge your life choice is you and God. That's the two people who matter."
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