Torrey Pines High School freshman prepared ‘ladybugs’ for Del Mar Heights musical

Torrey Pines freshman volunteer Tasia Mochernak with her Del Mar Heights second-grade ladybugs. –Photo/Karen Billing

By Karen Billing

As Del Mar Heights teachers set out planning their annual second grade “Bugs” musical, they ran into a problem as they could not find a parent volunteer to help choreograph the show’s big ladybug number. Who could possibly help these young ladybugs earn their spots?

That’s where Tasia Mochernak, a 14-year-old Torrey Pines High School freshman, came in. A dancer with previous lady big experience and a big sister to a Heights first grader, Tasia volunteered her time to teach 15 second grade bugs to dance.

It was teacher Paige Rollins’ idea to recruit Tasia as she had been her student in second grade and she knew she had the chops as she has been dancing with Royal Dance Academy since she was 3 years old. There was some concern about a teenager being able to handle a group of second graders, but Rollins soon realized Tasia had no problem wrangling the bugs.

“It turned out to be a blessing. Not only has Tasia been organized, dedicated, focused and energetic, the second graders have honestly never looked better and have learned the dance faster than any group,” said Rollins.

For the last month and a half, Tasia has been back at the Heights putting the number together.

“I like how the girls pay attention and try to pick up the steps. They try really hard even though a lot of them don’t take dance very often or at all,” said Tasia at last week’s final dress rehearsal leading up to the March 28 show.

“I enjoyed that they put in the effort.”

For a few practice sessions Tasia had help from her friend Mikayla Chang, a Canyon Crest Academy freshman who also takes dance at Royal Dance Academy and was also a ladybug in the past.

The show is different from when Tasia and Mikayla performed it, mostly in the number of bugs involved. When they were ladybugs, there were just eight dancers and they performed a different style of routine — Tasia’s adorable piece has a lot of jazz influence and lets each of the ladybugs shine as they sign about the importance of “being a lady.”

“They’ve come a long way and I’m surprised all of them remember the steps without me constantly having to remind them,” said Tasia, who has also been impressed with how the girls have been devoted to practicing on their own time at lunch and recesses.

“I really like her because she’s nice,” said ladybug and first-time dancer Nikki Quinn, 8. “If you make a mistake she doesn’t really care. I like that I get to dance with all my friends.”

Tasia owes her success with the dance to her experience at Royal Dance Academy, where she takes classes in ballet, jazz and lyrical styles.

“Francine Garton taught me everything I know, she’s the reason I can help them and make up the choreography,” Tasia said.

Tasia dances most every week day, recently completing the Royal Dance Academy exam in the advanced one level.

Tasia occasionally assists her younger sister Natalia’s class at Royal Dance Academy and also choreographed a routine for Natalia and her friends for the upcoming school talent show. Additionally, she plays on the varsity tennis team at Torrey Pines, writes for the school paper, The Falconer, takes Spanish, and speaks Russian and Chinese. Tasia became fluent in Mandarin after living in Beijing for a year and a half with her family. She takes courses for high school credit at HuaXia Chinese School in Miramar.

“I’m proud of Tasia and all of the students in Del Mar like her,” said Rollins. “Tasia has also been a role model to our second graders that kids can make a difference and that it is expected that we all help out.”