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Salsa star from Mission shines

Jessica Shatzko with her salsa partner and mentor

A diminutive 17-year-old who was in high school only a year ago, is now a world salsa champion.

And she did it with a broken bone in her foot.

Jessica Shatzko, along with her partner Alfonso Caldera of Vancouver’s Bravo Dance Company, won first place in the professional division of the Portland World Salsa Championship, June 10 to 12, defeating finalists from California and Venezuela.

What makes her performance all the more remarkable is that she’s only been dancing salsa for one year, says her grandfather, Nick Borzelli.

Shatzko is the protégée of two-time World Salsa Champion Caldera, who thinks she’s a natural.

As part of their first prize finish, Shatzko and Caldera won round-trip air and hotel accommodation to San Diego for the U.S. Open Salsa Congress on July 7. Unfortunately, she might be unable to go due to an injury.

During the Portland preliminaries she broke a bone in her foot, but battled through the break to win.

A graduate of Hatzic secondary last year, she now dances seven days a week and teaches in Vancouver with Caldera’s company.

Shatzko has been dancing since she was three, with skills in ballet, tap (she was on the national team when she was 15 and 16), jazz, hip hop and contemporary.

She’s also appeared in music videos for musical artists Michael Bublé and Emily Harder.

Although she’s won some money in competitions and earns a little more teaching, she keeps a part-time job at the Mission London Drugs.

Shatzko wants to go on “So You Think You Can Dance Canada”, but dancers have to be 19 years of age. She said Charlene Hartman, a 24-year-old friend from Abbotsford, finished fifth in last season’s show.

At 14, Shatzko won a dance invitational in Vancouver among 500 other 16-and-under contestants.

“She did pretty good for a little Mission gal,” her grandfather joked.

Beginning in September she will teach at Can Dance Studios on First Avenue in Mission.

Readers can watch  Shatzko dancing with Caldera on YouTube.