Young Dreamers step up the funk

Young Jada Smith, centre, leads the way for the Young Dreamers Kids with Funk group during a rehearsal in Mitchell's Plain.

Last month, the youngsters, aged between five and 15, boogied their way to Carnival City, where they competed at the Battle of the Giants national competition.

YDA founder, Kim Cassels, 23, launched the group last year, with branches in both Milnerton and Mitchell’s Plain. She said the dancers outdid themselves in their first national competition.

Jada Smith, 8, a Grade 2 pupil at York Road Primary School, in Lansdowne, is one of those dazzling dancers who braved the national stage in a solo dance as well as the group formation.

“I always enjoyed dancing around the house and I joined the academy last year when it opened,” said Jada. “I’ve made a lot of new friends at YDA and we had a great time at the competition. I was very nervous for my solo dance but I enjoyed it. Even though I did not win it, I’m happy with how I performed and can’t wait to go back next year to win it.

“But, our team won gold in the group section. That was amazing and I felt like a champion,” she said.

The young dreamer said she would like to become a doctor once she finishes school so that she could help other people the same way she helps her grandmother. But, until then, she just wants to have fun on the dance floor. Meanwhile, Cassels said they have a two-year plan to get the dancers ready for the hip hop world championships – as they still need to work their way up to the championship division before getting onto the world trial circuit.

“Because it was our first time at the Battle of the Giants, we had to enter in the amature division. We won the group sections so we’ll compete in the championship division next year,” said Cassels.

“After that, we’ll work our way to the world trial circuit for the following year which means we’ll be eligible to make the SA team to compete at the world champs. We had 30 students who competed at Carnival City and half of them did solos. All three of our groups who entered were placed – two came first and one finished second,” she said.

Cassels started dancing at the age of six and has gained a ton of international dance experience. She hopes to use this experience to inspire her dancers to follow their dreams – be it on or off the dance floor. “I started with ballet and moved to contemporary, before turning to hip hop at the age of nine. At that time I qualified to compete internationally but couldn’t because of finances. But, for the past few years I’ve been competing at the hip hop world champs and have been to Denmark, Italy, Los Angeles and Los Vegas,” said Cassels.

YDA started with just four students last year, and now has 100 members. Cassels said that although there’s been a lot of interest in YDA throughout the year, she prefers to work with the same group of students from the start of the year in order to follow their progress.

“I’ve always done dance workshops and only last year decided to start YDA. Jada was one of the four dancers who started with me and she’s progressed very well. YDA is not just about going to compete but also to help the kids with self esteem and to build their character,” said Cassels.

“I also encourage them to do solos because as a dancer you can’t always hide behind someone else.

“And, with some of the senior dancers, I let them teach the juniors to upskill them so that maybe one day this could also be something they’d want to do,” she said.

Now that the dust has settled down from the Battle of the Giants, the Young Dreamers are looking to step it up a notch and test their hip hop and bboy skills at the DanceStar competition at the Artscape Theatre, next week. Winners will qualify to compete at the world finals in Croatia, next year.