Cape Town Lately’s Gareth Duncan chats to Street Stylers’ dance king Blake Williams, who is running a workshop Dance Sauce at Plumstead High School on Saturday.
Tell us about your background.
I was born and raised in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. I am the only son of two awesome parents and the only brother among four beautiful sisters. I am the only person in my family to have taken up dancing as a career.
How and why did you get into dance?
Growing up, from the age of about four, I would watch Michael Jackson videos all day. At family functions, I would wear my church clothes and imitate all of his moves. The feeling of the enjoyment people got while watching me enjoy myself sparked the dream. I knew from a young that I wanted dance to be apart of my life. I wasn’t sure about anything else… I just knew that I loved dancing. I was good at it and I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.
What inspired you to pursue it on a full-time basis?
The schools I attended both didn’t have much of a selection when it came to sports. Whatever sporting code they had I would excel in it, but I never really took it seriously. Academically, I was always in the Top 20 of my grade throughout my schooling career. I’m grateful that York Road Primary and South Peninsula High supported my dancing and always made way for me to perform on the school stage. From the students to the teaching staff, everyone knew me as the dancer and would take pride in it. Everyone always supported me and pushed me to take on the next opportunity to dance. I was always hungry for my next opportunity. The only challenge was my father, who is a school principal, telling me to stop wasting my time dancing because I would never make a career out of it, but the more I performed or competed… the better I got.
Eventually, I competed in the South African Dance League and I became the SA Champion three years in a row. In 2010, I became the International Dance Organisation Hip Hop World champion for solo male adult and successfully defended my title in 2011, making me the only word champion from South Africa. What made it even more remarkable was the fact that I was so young. As I got older, I realised that it didn’t matter how great I was in my academics or other sporting codes, dance was clearly my calling in life.
When you started, not many young people followed their passions. What were the challenges you faced when you opened Street Stylers as a business? And what were the rewards?
The greatest challenge I have faced is the commitment of other people to the vision of the team. Many people get involved for the wrong reasons. The success, fame and the money changes people and often they fall out very easily. In 2016, I turned the Street Stylers from a crew into an agency which really changed a lot for the company. Dancers get paid for gigs and our entire core team consists of professionals in their own light. A heart-warming part is the fact that most of these team members were dancers growing up… so it’s great that each person is able to contribute to the team in their new expert field and take the Street Stylers brand to the next level. From video to design to project management and to marketing, we’re covering our bases.
The challenge I face now is learning to work in a team with professionals that are all leaders and have different ways of thinking and linking that to the Street Stylers talent we currently have on board. It’s been the ideal move so far for the brand. We took the Street Stylers to higher levels over the period of two months simply because of the new core team. I am excited about the next five years.
What do you hope to achieve during your journey in 2017?
I feel 2017 will be a big year for the Street Stylers. We have so many great changes coming into play. I hope to successfully run our new event Dance Sauce and all the other plans we have stacked up. As the agency, we aim to raise upcoming artists and help them break through by using our services. We also have great things lined up for this year like a dance production, Jimmy Nevis live performances and featuring at the Cape Town Sevens in December, which attracts over 50 000 people a day to the Cape Town Stadium.
What is the Dance Sauce Workshop?
Dance Sauce is hosted by Street Stylers and our aim is to get as many people dancing, laughing and keeping fit through three awesome workshops. This event reaches out to so many people of different ages and stages and unites us through dance.
We are offering the following classes:
The junior class educates young kids aged nine to 14 years old on the basic hip hop moves and fun grooves to complement it. This workshop will help build a solid foundation for all dancers.
Dance fitness focuses on endurance/stamina. The class will consist of easy hip hop dance moves that challenges different muscles groups of the body , it’s similar to a Zumba class except we use hip hop moves and music.
Senior class invites people 14 years and older to focus more on the styles of dance, less endurance and more technique and feeling. In this class, we will set out four different sets of music, each set represents different hip hop dance styles and will all add up to one mix at the end of the class.
What other workshops will you plan for the year?
We aim to host Dance Sauce at least once a month, creating a platform for other dancers/choreographers to learn and teach on a regular basis.
How can people get involved with Street Stylers?
People can get involved in so many ways. From being an artist and wanting to take their career to the next level to becoming an intern and learning from the professionals within the agency. People may also become members of Street Stylers after our launch in May 2017. All they have to do is contact us via email on any of our social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
MORE ABOUT DANCE SAUCE!