By Shane Covey
BRATTLEBORO — Halfway through a hip-hop class at Kelly’s Dance Academy in late July, all eyes were on a 9-year-old boy from Vernon.
“C-Double-O-P” was about to bust a move.
The fourth-grader at Vernon Elementary School squatted down on the floor and performed “the coffee grinder” — continually sweeping his right leg around like a helicopter propeller, hopping over it with his left foot each time and balancing himself with his hands out front.
“It’s my favorite one to do,” said Cooper Jillson.
He has been taking lessons since 2019. With three instructors leading the way, Cooper lines up in front of a mirror with his 16 classmates — they do a series of stretches, work on kicks and eventually groove to the music that flows through the studio’s speakers.
“Cooper started out really raw. There was a lot of stuff he needed to learn,” said Kelly’s Dance Academy hip-hop teacher Meaghan Fagley. “He has really improved during his two years of competition. He has really good stage personality and is so much fun to watch.”
Fagley’s crew finished first in the regionals this year. The judges were impressed by the local group’s technique, choreography and performance in the freestyle form that was made popular by the likes of MC Hammer and Michael Jackson.
“We went on stage and did a choreographed piece. The girls were aliens from ‘Men in Black’ and the boys wore suits,” said the instructor, adding that the regional competitions took place in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Cooper also placed in the top three when doing a “Grease” duet — Danny and Sandy — with his cousin at Foxwoods Casino.
“These classes revealed a talent that I didn’t know I had,” he said. “My dance goal is to get better.”
The eight-week summer program at Kelly’s Dance Academy keeps the kids moving and in shape. Veterans such as Cooper help the rookies out during each 60-minute class.
“He is one of the boys that I can rely on. He’s usually pretty good about assisting others,” Fagley said.
Each Wednesday during the summer, Cooper went to camp and then attended a couple of classes at Kelly’s Dance Academy.
When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, there was no hesitation.
“A dancer,” he replied.
Shane Covey grew up in Brattleboro and has been the Brattleboro Reformer’s sports editor since 2008. He previously covered sports for the Athol Daily News