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In step

Natanga Smith Hurdle

In step

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Hands outstretched, Ross Harris looks at Kara Cutting. She shimmies two steps closer, puts her hand in his and with a slight sway of her hips the two begin a passionate and high energy samba dance.
The music breaks, the audience applauds and both dancers wipe sweat from their foreheads. Watching these two young dancers tell a story with their rhythmic hip swaying, hand movements and facial expressions you are mesmerized by their ability.
Both are young dancers – Kara, 17, a student of Harrison College, and Ross, 16, a student of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic.
Both have two different stories to tell about how they got involved in competitive ballroom and Latin dancing, but what is clear that they both love it.
Through blood, sweat and tears (last year, Kara was battling a knee injury, but for this year, she hasn’t been having any trouble) both are the 2011 Champions in the Youth categories in the ballroom and Latin fields. If this interview seems more one-sided it is.
Ross is extremely shy and not talkative while Kara on the other hand is more outspoken.
Kara has been dancing ballet since age six and began ballroom and Latin at age seven. She is now preparing for her Grade 7 ballet exam in March 2012 and also takes jazz dance classes once a week.
Ross on the other hand started nine years ago when he saw his older brother doing it.  Ross admitted being teased by his peers at first but “after they saw how well I could dance and the attention I was getting at performances that soon changed.”
Kara expresses her love for dancing as a “love, not [a] like”.
“When I’m dancing I feel so much joy and happiness within me. Dance is a way of expression and I find when I’m dancing, I’m in my own world and I tend to forget any problems I may be experiencing. As cliché as it sounds, I actually live to dance and I dance to live.”
Both have differences in which dance they prefer. While liking both categories of dance, Ross says if he had to pick a preference it would be the cha-cha. For Kara she gravitates towards the more high energy dances, so she prefers Latin and her dance is the samba.
“The hip action produced from precise execution makes it a very attractive dance. I will admit, samba is the hardest of the Latin dances to master but just the music and hip action make it something I want to improve on.
“In the ballroom category, I have a strong preference for the foxtrot. The foxtrot when I first learnt it was the dance I hated most, but after working so hard on perfecting the technique of the dance, I now consider it my favourite ballroom dance.”
They have perfected their craft by practicing every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday – and extra time if it is time for competitions. And sacrifice is important because they have to balance schoolwork with dance rehearsal.
Ross explains that all other activities are centred around dance practice first and anything else after. They are taught their routines by Shane Greaves who Kara labels the boot camp sergeant and get help from advanced female dancers Caroline Mayers, Daana Linton and Kim Wiggins who Kara says are the boot camp instructors.
Becoming dance champions is not easy.
There are dance competitions every month except for August. Add to that is yearly exams with a British based examiner – the International Dance Teachers Association. It is not mandatory but “critique is helpful”. They received gold in both the ballroom and Latin.
Apart from many trophies such as first place in Genesis Today and Tomorrow championship, first place IDTA Regional Dance classics, first place in club, they are extremely happy about the first place in the Latin category in the recent Strictly Latin and second place in the ballroom category.
Leon Greaves, principal and tutor of Genesis dance studio, where the teens are both members, had high praises for them: “These two are world champion material. It is just a matter of training and working hard. I want to expose them to everything.”
Both credit their parents for supporting them and being at every competition and they hope to go further with their dancing.
“As radiology is the area of study I want to pursue, dance is kind of a secondary option. Although studying dance may not be a full time thing, I would love to be able to train overseas. However, on the national level, I would like to enter NIFCA,” says Kara. For Ross, while he is studying electronic servicing technology, he wants to study dance in England someday.
So look for them someday on the world stage.