Brianne Cannataro tap dances whenever -- and wherever -- she can.
In the grocery store. At the hospital visiting her sick grandma. In the dentist's waiting room. In school hallways. And everywhere throughout her house in Schaumburg.
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Brianne CannataroAge: 10
School: Buzz Aldrin Elementary School
Who inspires you? Alyssa Mariconda, also a dancer at The Edge Dance Academy in Palatine. She helps me through everything and she really inspires me.
What book are you reading? My favorite book is "Smile" by Raina Telgemeier
What's on your iPod? I listen to music on my iPhone. I like pop music, today's hits.
The three words that best describe you? Dancer. Funny. Picky.
Her nickname at home is "Happy Feet." Her teachers at The Edge Dance Academy in Palatine call her "Taz," a reference to the Tasmanian devil cartoon.
Brianne is among three dancers and one alternate from across the country -- and the only one from Illinois -- selected for Team USA at the World Tap Dance Championship to be held in December in Germany.
Tap is all about rhythm, said Brianne, who's also a straight-A student in the 5th grade at Buzz Aldrin Elementary School.
"You can't do tap without rhythm," she said. "It's really hard because you have to get all your sounds and you have to work really hard for it."
Brianne has been hard at work on her upcoming competition solo, "Bugle Boy."
"It's fast. It has one tumbling move," she said. "My teacher picked it, and I love it."
Brianne said she is especially proud of having earned first, second and third places in different categories at the Starbound regional talent competition this spring. Later, she placed second in tap dance at the Starbound national competition.
"Tap is mostly my main subject ... but I'm also good at jazz and lyrical (dance)," said Brianne, a member of Jagged Edge, the Palatine dance academy's competitive team. "I can't pick. I love all of them. I like working with both my teachers and I don't want to let them down."
Brianne is at the dance studio every weekday from 4 to 10 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
She does homework on practice breaks, or skips part of dance class if she has too much school work to do.
Despite her dance commitments, Brianne never had a late assignment and always put 110 percent into her school work, said Candace Kuczynski, who taught her in the third and fourth grades.
"She always was helpful to her classmates and wanted to help any students who needed help with organizing their desk or not understanding directions or a concept," she said. "In fourth grade, she really took on the leadership role. I could always count on her if I was absent to help out the substitute."
When asked if she ever gets tired of her rigorous schedules, Brianne makes a "you're so funny!" face.
"No!" she said. "I mean, sometimes I'm exhausted ... but I love it."
Supporting Brianne's passion for dance while making sure she doesn't overextend herself is a delicate balancing act, said her mother, Carrie Cannataro.
"At first it was hard to figure out if we should be letting her invest so much time," she said. "It's not so much about time but the social aspect. But if you told her her best friend's party is the same day as practice, she wouldn't even think about it, she'd come to practice."
Brianne's father, Frank Cannataro, agreed.
"She has a passion for what she does," he said. "She wants to do this seven days a week. If she's not dancing (in the studio), she's dancing at home. We always told her if school starts to decline, she will have to focus on it."
Brianne knows that full well.
"I love dance and in my opinion dance comes before school, but my mom says that school comes before dance, so I really have to keep my grades up and work really hard in school as well," she said.
Brianne is never too competitive to help others, said tap dance teacher Lisa Pendzimaz, who co-owns The Edge Dance Academy.
"Brianne is a little spitfire," she said. "She's a ball of energy. She's so fun to teach."
She is also a very hard worker, sometimes too hard. She has suffered a number of injuries, including a broken elbow and left ankle, an injured tailbone, and most recently an issue with her hip flexors. The adults in her life say they must make sure she doesn't push herself excessively.
"We have to stop her because we know when she's hurt," Pendzimaz said.
Pendzimaz said she knew Brianne had the "it" factor when she saw her perform in Schaumburg around age 4. Back then, Brianne was taking classes at Dorothy's Dancing Unlimited in Schaumburg under Lori Pendzimaz, Lisa's mother.
"No one else showed up so she was the only one onstage," Lisa Pendzimaz said of that performance. "She just lit up. She just killed it."
Brianne's favorite tapper is -- who else? -- Gene Kelly, the star of the 1952 film "Singin' in the Rain."
"I've seen the movie a lot," she said.
Her family has been working hard at fundraising to help pay for the trip to Germany. Contributions can be made through the Give Forward website at http://gfwd.at/1pdwbHf.
Brianne eventually wants to go to college, ideally through a dance company program, and would love to dance professionally or possibly teach dance some day.
She said she owes a lot to her parents.
"I'm just really thankful about how much money my parents spend on my dancing," Brianne said.
"There are a lot of girls that want to dance around here are not able to because they don't have enough money for classes, costumes, competitions, the whole season. It's a lot of money altogether. I am very thankful."
Top: 'She wants to do this seven days a week'