Young girl wins virtual dance contest

Ke’niqua Howell, the virtual dance solo winner
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By Carlena Knight

Ke’niqua Howell danced away with the title for the country’s first ever virtual solo dance competition on Monday night.

Howell performed a modern contemporary piece to the song ‘Black Woman’ and wowed the judges with her acrobatics and technique.

She revealed that she was in fact surprised by the way in which she performed the piece, as everything seemed to go wrong during practice sessions.

“I am going to be totally honest with you, I really surprised myself because during my practices I broke down at one point because I thought I couldn’t come today and do it and then during the dance I was like ‘okay, I am going to do this’,” she said.

The petite dancer also spoke of the inspiration behind her performance.

“The inspiration was mainly because I feel like as black women, we tend to forget our worth, so the dance was made to empower us,” Howell, a former student of the Antigua Girls’ High School, explained.

Her choreographer was Tavia Hunte of the Shiva School of Dance, of which Howell is a member.

The dance company also congratulated Howell for her historic achievement.

“Our Shiva ladies always show up and show out! Ke’niqua, we are proud of you. That fire inside you cannot be contained. You left flames on the stage last night and we want to encourage you to keep that fire burning.

“Your Shiva family got you! Continue to reach for the stars, we know you’re short but we’ll gladly give you that boost you need. Stay sweet, stay focused, and more importantly, stay dancing,” the school stated on social media.

First runner-up, 13-year-old Gabrielle Hamlet, was all smiles after the news broke. She shared that it was a nerve-wracking experience for her as it was just her second time performing on stage in a formal setting.

“I’ve been dancing ever since I was young, at home all the time. I never really joined a dance group professionally. Only when I started high school, I joined my school dance team and I performed at the drama festival this year which was my first debut for dancing,” Hamlet explained.

She also performed a modern contemporary piece to the song ‘Spirit’.

Claiming the second runner-up spot was Christine Powell, Myrrisha Richards was third runner-up and Adiedre Robinson was fourth runner-up.

The inaugural virtual competition, which was staged under the theme ‘Dancing Together, Distances Apart’, was put on by the Department of Culture to mark the twin island’s 39th anniversary of Independence.

It was open to Antiguans and Barbudans aged 16 to 35 years and participants were encouraged to explore all genres of music for their performances. They also were permitted to integrate spoken word and percussion as the accompaniment for their performances.

Dancers were allowed to perform Caribbean folk, African, modern or contemporary, street jazz, hip hop and ballet dance disciplines only.

The Citizen by Investment Unit (CIU) came on board to provide the prize money for the virtual competition with the winner receiving $750, the second placed, $500, third $300, and the fourth and fifth placed performers each received $250.

A regional component of this event is expected to be staged on December 15 with the winner of the local leg representing Antigua and Barbuda.

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