An Abbotsford teen is currently appearing on screens across the globe in a hit Family Channel TV show.
Dylan Ratzlaff, 16, joins season five of The Next Step, a Canadian teen drama series which depicts a group of dancers who attend The Next Step Dance Studio.
She plays the role of Jacquie, the ex-girlfriend of one of the male dancers, Henry, and Ratzlaff describes the character as “very determined” and as someone who doesn’t let anything get in the way of her dancing.
“She’s very much like me,” Ratzlaff says.
The role is a dream for the teen, who has been dancing most of her life and acting since the age of eight.
She has grown up on a west Abbotsford pepper farm, and attended King Traditional Elementary and Mennonite Educational Institute before switching to online studies to accommodate her dance schedule.
Her dance training has taken place at studios in Chilliwack, Langley, Abbotsford and Vancouver.
Ratzlaff was eight years old when her hip hop teacher suggested that her vibrant personality would be well-suited to acting.
She was among 150 dancers who attended an open call for a Vancouver talent agency and was one of three chosen by the agency.
“I find when I dance, I’m very expressive … I’m super-energetic. My mom says I never stop moving,” she says of the reason she was likely selected.
Ratzlaff filmed a few commercials – including for an insurance company and for chicken strips – before taking a break at age 10 when she got braces.
She was a fan of The Next Step, which first aired in 2013, and sent in an audition tape in 2015, but didn’t have any luck.
The following year, she again submitted a tape and this time was invited to do an online interview.
She was asked to fly the next day to Toronto to audition in person, but there was one problem – because she was only 15, she was required to have a chaperone, but her parents were in Turkey at the time for their 20th anniversary.
Ratzlaff then called on former teacher Jocelyn Heaps from Project Dance in Chilliwack to accompany her, and travel arrangements were quickly made.
Her audition consisted of acting as well as improv, hip hop and contemporary dance.A week later, she was training at Project Dance when she received a call from her agent, informing her that she had landed a role in the show.
“I started crying. I was bawling,” Ratzlaff says.
Two weeks of rehearsals followed and 20 episodes of season five were filmed between June and August of last year.
She described the experience as “amazing,” with the cast bonding over their passion for dance.
The season premiered on May 26 – about 50 family and friends gathered at the Ratzlaff home to celebrate – but the teen previously watched all the episodes with the rest of the cast in Toronto in January.
Although she said it’s strange to watch herself and hear her voice, “it’s cool to see everything you’ve done.”
Ratzlaff said she hopes that if The Next Step is renewed for another season, her character will return. If not, she said the experience has helped her learn the value of taking risks.
“I had no idea that I was capable of doing something like this,” she said.
The show airs Fridays at 4:30 p.m. on the Family Channel. Ratzlaff will also perform with the cast at Family Channel’s Big Ticket Concert in Toronto on Aug. 27.