You are never too young to follow your dreams and it seems Portia Oti has demonstrated this tremendously well. Dancing since the age of 4, 11 year old Portia holds the coveted title as the England under 12 Hip-Hop Dance Champion (2012) as well as, the European under 12 Hip-Hop Champion (2012). Portia’s dancing skills ranges from hip-hop, ballet and even to the new dance phenomenon ‘azonto’. This talented young girl has featured in a number of competitions, theatre productions and national commercials. Portia’s dedication warranted her nomination for the GUBA Rising Star award in 2012, where she competed against other talented nominees twice her age. Performing in front of dignitaries like the Duke of Edinburgh, she has shown that there are no limits to her talents and aspirations. We have been impressed by Portia’s achievements sofar and in this interview, we give her the platform to express herself.
What do you love about dancing?
I like to dance because I find it fun. I enjoy being creative and being able to express how I feel. I find it difficult to express myself sometimes but when I am dancing, I feel like I can be who and what the music requires me to be. Dancing allows me to meet new people and make new friends from all over the world. As a result, I have two families, my blood family and my dance family and I love that sense of belonging. I also love the fashion that comes with dancing such as, trainers and sweats.
How do you prepare for your competitions?
When I have a competition coming up, I prepare by spending some time listening to some of the new songs that have been released. I also practise some combinations to beats of 8 to help me prepare as we are not told beforehand the music we will be dancing to. My mum usually washes my hair and packs my clothes and trainers for me. The competitions usually run the whole day and start very early. I compete in a number of events so I usually have to take a few outfits with me.
How does it feel to be a semi- finalist for ‘Got to Dance’?
Got to Dance was a great experience for me and a brilliant platform because, it has opened doors for me that I could have only dreamed of prior to the show. The film team was great and I was so proud that I was able to show the UK what I enjoy doing. It was great meeting all the judges and Davina, the whole experience was magical and I felt like a little star! Getting the 3 Gold stars was all I wanted so when I saw the 3 stars light up, I felt like my heart jumped out of my chest, I was so happy that I just cried. I wanted to show my mum and family that all their support was worthwhile and that I will continue to work hard.
Do you have any competitions or performances coming up?
I have a number of different shows and competitions coming up. I am due to go and defend my title in Amsterdam at the IDO Hip Hop European Championship in June. I am due to take part in a number of shows and a summer theatre performance which was organised by Boy Blue Ent (Kenrick Sandy) and ZooNation (Kate Prince), both Olivier Award winning dance companies. Presently, I am rehearsing and training for all the events I am fortunate to be involved in.
You performed at the Commonwealth evening for Prince Charles and Prince Philip. How was that experience for you?
Zoe Jackson from Living The Dream Dance Co. asked me to join them to perform at the Queens Commonwealth Celebrations. This was truly a dream come true and I loved every single minute. The feeling was a bit out of this world almost like I was floating as I couldn’t believe how beautiful the Abbey was, and that I was dancing in front of such highly acclaimed individuals.
Do you find it easy combining your school work with competition and training?
My school is very supportive of my performing and if I have to miss school they always provide me with the work I have missed out on and any extra support I may need on my return. School for me can be challenging at times because of my dyslexia, but with my mum and sister I am doing very well and will continue to focus on my education.
You have done very well so far. What advice will you give to special children like you who are dyslexic, have sickle cell or autism?
Thank you. I have a good family who help me with everything. I would advise any child who may have some extra needs, to not allow yourselves to be labelled and roped in by the definitions of your condition. You can and you will!! Persevere in all that you choose to do, don’t accept ‘No’ as an answer and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be actively performing in shows, theatre and TV. I would also like to open and run my own dance school. I would want a part of the dance school to focus on children and adults with special needs. I am also very interested in getting into choreography for shows, music videos and more.
Is there anything interesting you want the world to know about Portia Oti?
I believe in hard work and I will never let anything hold me back. I try my best to push through the barriers in front of me and I am enjoying what I am doing. I am also launching a clothing range very soon known as HipHopKidz, the first range HipHopGirlz will be out soon, focusing on street/hip-hop/dance attire for young girls
Portia Oti has such exceptional talent. Her commitment to her craft is opening many doors for her. We wish Portia all the best in her upcoming competitions and performances. We would like to encourage people to continue to support her and to support her new clothing line which will be launched soon.
To find out more visit: www.portiaoti.com Twitter: @PortiaOti, Facebook: Portia Oti