World Class Dancers in LIC
Juan Zapata is just 19 years old, but he already has some big shoes to fill. In 2007 the Colombian native started the Queens based dance troupe, the World Class Dancers, a group that teaches kids about improving themselves through hip hop dance classes. Every weekend the group gathers at the Long Island City YMCA to practice their moves for hours at a time in preparation for their upcoming dance competitions. I was lucky to catch up with Juan and the group to ask them a few questions and watch them showcase their talents. I had a great time while making the video. I could see that the kids bonded and saw each other as a second family. They were not only interested in bettering themselves on the dance floor, but also by applying their dance strategies to the real world. Read my conversation with Juan below to find out what the World Class Dancers is all about. Watch the video to see them in action!
Q & A With Juan Zapata:
What was your motivation?
Basically we were just tired of settling and not really challenging ourselves when we knew we had it in us to make it happen. We also watched other crews starting to rise to the top and we knew deep down we had the potential to make it as well.
How do you go about choosing dancers- ie what is the rehearsal
process, ages of dancers, what level of dance skills?
Every few months we hold auditions but we’re pretty selective with the audition process… we always provide weekly workshops for the beginners-level dancers or ones that just want to improve. We also encourage our advanced dancers to take weekly workshops in various locations all over the city in order to challenge them and sharpen their skills as well as their experience. The beginners practice once a week in a two hour class, the advanced rehearse three days for a four-to-fice hour session, sometimes more depending on competitions and such. Our dancers range from 11 to 22 yrs old, and our youngest member is actually one of our stars in the advanced class. Everyone’s experience varies, but it depends on how hard the dancers are willing to work to improve on their skills; as choreographers we can always tell who’s practicing and receiving training on the side.
What does your organization do for the community?
Well we began doing a lot of charity showcases for the church we started in, helping them raise funds for a huge renovation project they have committed to. We have also performed for local hospital/police events at Hoffman Park in the summer. Last year we were involved in a dinner to benefit AIDS awareness day, and this Christmas we are planning to visit the Children’s Hospital and make some of these kids’ holiday season memorable.