In a short video uploaded to YouTube this September, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s native Aaliyah Taplin confidently navigates her way through what’s known as the “We Day Dance.”
She hops into the air and thrusts her fist upward, claws her way side-to-side before folding her arms, makes motions as if she’s taking items down from a shelf, then moves into some hand claps, jazz hands, a move that looks like she’s using an invisible vacuum cleaner, some crisscrossing of the hands, and finishes by pointing her index fingers straight at the camera.
No doubt, 10-year-old Aaliyah will be practising that dance in the months to come as she readies herself to take those moves to a large stage in Montreal, where she will dance alongside the man who popularized the “We Day Dance,” Canadian pop singer Shawn Desman.
Taplin and her mother, Amanda Doyle, will fly to Montreal next spring on an all-expense paid trip, during which she will join Desman on stage to perform the dance.
Taplin learned of this on a phone call from Desman himself as she celebrated her 10th birthday on Saturday. The moment was captured in a video posted on YouTube.
(To see video, CLICK HERE)
“I’m going to do We Day in Montreal,” says Desman over the phone to Taplin, “and you’re going to go to We Day, and you’re going to dance with me on stage.
“Isn’t that cool,” he asks.
“Yeah,” she says, somewhat at a loss it seems for what to say about her good fortune, though her friends at the party regularly pipe in with excited cheers. At one point, they take the phone to to say hello to Desman and express their love for him.
“You’ve got to get the ‘We Day Dance’ down really, really good and practice it, because that’s what we’re going to do,” adds Desman. “I can’t wait to see you.”
Doyle said the opportunity for Aaliyah to perform with her idol has been gaining steam ever since Doyle became aware that Desman was a fan of Aaliyah’s YouTube videos (50 are currently posted) featuring her dancing and singing along to a variety of pop songs, including some of his own.
“I checked my email one day, and I came across a comment posted that said, ‘Shawn Desman brought me here.’ I went and looked up Shawn, and here he had my daughter’s video posted on his Twitter (social media) page. He’s a huge fan of hers.”
Doyle and her daughter had tickets purchased for a show he was scheduled to play in St. John’s last year, but the show was for people ages 14 and up. However, Doyle said Desman wanted to meet her, and plans were made to meet during his trip to the island.
Unfortunately, the show was later cancelled due to weather conditions that prevented Desman from reaching St. John’s.
Plans were in place for Desman to record a video wishing Aaliyah a happy birthday, but Doyle said his management later offered to have her come to Montreal for the We Day performance, which is expected to take place either Feb. 29 or March 1.
“She’s still shocked,” said Doyle. “I can’t believe he took the time to call her on her birthday.”
We Day is a project started by Free the Children to celebrate the positive contributions young people make to their communities and the world at large. A We Day event held at Air Canada Centre in Toronto in September attracted over 20,000 youth.
"It's a celebration of music and spoken word, based on the belief that young people can create change," said Craig Kielburger, the founder of Free the Children, speaking with The Telegram last week. "It's to reward kids for what they're doing.”
Taplin was acknowledged as one of Desman’s top-25 fans, and despite the large venue Aaliyah will likely perform in, Doyle doubts her daughter will feel nervous, adding Aaliyah hopes to one day become a performer herself.