Young dancers have a passion to perform

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If you pass St Peter’s Church in Somers Town on a cold winter night, you could be forgiven for wondering why, instead of traditional hymns, you can hear infectious dance music.

Anyone curious enough to follow their toe-tapping feet will find dozens of dancers training hard to perfect their latest moves.

Teenagers and youngsters enjoy a street dance class at the Portsmouth Dance Academy held at St Peters Church in Somerstown. Andi Vega works with the dancers.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (14112-9)

Teenagers and youngsters enjoy a street dance class at the Portsmouth Dance Academy held at St Peters Church in Somerstown. Andi Vega works with the dancers.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (14112-9)

This is Most Wanted, a street dance group set up by Carly-Ann Purcell, dance development officer for the University of Portsmouth and director of both Most Wanted and the Portsmouth Dance Academy.

‘I have always danced,’ says Carly.

‘As soon as I had the money I went to London as much as I could to study.

‘I even went to Los Angeles for three months in 2010 and found myself in a class with backing dancers from the Michael Jackson tour. It’s probably the fastest I’ve ever been taught in my whole life!’

It was this passion for dance that inspired Carly to try and make a difference in the Portsmouth dance scene.

After studying psychology at uni, she took up the role of dance development officer for the city in 2006.

‘When I came here after studying, I was very dissapointed that there were no street dance classes.

‘There was no-one catering for people that took dance seriously here.

‘As dance development officer I work to widen participation in dance so I make sure that there is provision for all ages.’

In 2007 this desire to make dance available for everyone led to the formation of Most Wanted, a street dance group catering for all ages.

She explains: ‘Most Wanted has about 60 dancers in total.

‘Most people who come are local but we’ve had people from as far afield as Southampton and Farnborough.

‘We take dancers from four and our oldest dancer is 25.

‘We’re even starting an adult group because the parents have been nagging us!

‘The kids are embarassed. I think they are worried about getting shown up by their parents, but they will be proud when they see them dance.

As part of their training, Most Wanted dancers get regular chances to perform and on January 31 at the Kings Theatre, Southsea the Most Wanted crew will be showing off their latest moves in a city-wide dance off.

‘It is the 10th year for the Kings show,’ says Carly.

‘It’s about giving everyone a chance to perform in front of a big audience.

‘There will be 13 dance schools involved and a London crew coming down to celebrate the 10th year with us.

‘We have given the schools a theme this year, Dance Through The Decades, so it will be interesting to see what comes out from that.

‘There is always lots of energy at the shows, the kids get very excited.’

Carly believes that performance is a vital part of the street dance experience at Most Wanted.

‘I do think it’s important for kids to get the chance to show what they can do,’ she says.

‘It shows that if they work really hard they get these positive outlets.

‘Some of the kids get really nervous before performing, but when you see their faces afterwards they’ve absolutely loved it.

‘Everyone gets nervous when they perform, including me.

‘We teach them to use that adrenaline and turn it into energy.’

As well as the annual Kings Theatre dance off, Most Wanted also get the chance to perform regularly throughout the year.

Carly says: ‘We do two big shows a year and then lots of community performances and competitions.

‘There are lots of opportunities for dancers to get involved in performing. We even performed in Zambia in the summer with a charity called Dance Africa.’

Carly is adamant that charity work is something which should always be at the heart of the Most Wanted ethos.

‘I feel quite passionately about using this platform to raise funds for other people.

‘We have been involved with lots of charities from Dance Africa and the Rowans Hospice to MacMillan Cancer Support and even QA Hospital.’

Through her work with Most Wanted, Carly looks to share her passion for street dance with her students.

‘I love that you get to express yourself in dance. For me it’s the feeling when I’m in a class learning and it just takes me to a different place - I hope to pass that 

‘When you choreograph it’s not just moves, you are expressing what the music says to you.’

Carly can also see the positive effect that dance has on all of her students.

‘I see how much dancing can build up kids’ confidence.

‘It teaches them that if they are hard-working they’ll see the rewards.

‘It helps them make new friends and it’s good for fitness too, much better than playing video games!’

For those people who fear they have two left feet and lack the confidence to dance, Carly has some good news.

‘Anyone can learn to dance. It’s more mental than about natural ability.

‘There are people that have a flare for dance but don’t do the training.

‘I think passion is the most important quality for a dancer, it gives you that drive.

‘A lot of people see a performance and want to dance like that but don’t want to put the work in.’

To this end Carly brings dancers down from London a couple of times a month so that Most Wanted students can learn specific street dance styles such as Waacking and Krump from the best teachers.

‘’I would like all Most Wanted dancers to have as many opportunities as possible to dance with inspirational dancers,’ says Carly.

‘I just hope that they go on to acchieve everything they want to in dance.

With appearances on Got to Dance, CBBC’s Alesha’s Street Dance Stars and victory in the United Dance Organisation’s 2010 under 18s Street Dance Championships, it seems that many of those dreams may already have been achieved. But the future still looks very bright for Most Wanted.