A self-taught ‘body popper’ from Wrexham has spoken of his pride after dancing his way into the group finals of a hit BBC series.
Tom Hughes Lloyd, an 18-year-old performing arts student, has made it through to the street dance finals in the prestigious BBC Young 2017 competition, which kicks off on BBC Four this week.
Four programmes will document the competition journey in the run up to the grand final, which will be broadcast live on BBC Two on Saturday April 22. Each programme will focus on the four dance categories which this year are Street Dance, Ballet, South Asian and Contemporary.
The aim of the competition is to give non-professional dancers aged 16-21, a platform to demonstrate their dancing abilities through four competitive rounds designed to highlight their technical command, creative ability and expressive capability.
One winner from each category will be selected to receive a trophy, £1,000 towards further dance studies and a place in the Grand Final – together with at least one ‘wild card’ from across the Category Finals who impressed the judges with their potential despite not winning their category.
Tom is no stranger to the limelight, having reached the live final of the Sky television dance competition ‘Got to Dance’ in 2013, as well as being selected by actress Jennifer Ellison to be part of a talented team to launch her ‘Fame Academy’ in Liverpool in 2011.
He’s also won the ‘World Street Dance Championships’ in ‘popping’ for his age category and has taken part in many other dance competitions throughout his teenage years with other dancers as well as solo performances.
It all started for Tom aged 10, after he watched a Michael Jackson video. It was his parents who first recognised he had a natural ability, after they saw him copying MJ’s moves and suggested he pursue his talent.
Tom said: “I wanted to become more commercial and have my own identity, so I started watching pop videos on YouTube. This eventually led me to the dance form known as ‘popping’.”
For those unfamiliar with this, ‘popping’ is a street dance that originated from California during the late 1960s-1970s. It’s based on the technique of quickly contracting and relaxing muscles to cause a jerk in the dancer’s body, more commonly referred to as the ‘pop’ or ‘hit’. It’s definitely worth a watch if you’ve never seen it before!
International contemporary arts are well represented throughout North Wales with organisations such as Migrations, who specialise in performances, exhibitions, screenings and workshops featuring high profile artists, as well as venues such as Theatre Clywd in Mold and Venue Cymru in Llandudno which regularly showcase dance productions.
Although dance schools such as the Body Rock Dance Academy in Rhyl and Urban Fusion in Mold specialise in street dance and contemporary choreography, it was at Coleg Cambria that Tom honed his craft whilst studying a Performing Arts course at the Wrexham based Yale campus. He said: “During the course I felt like I wanted to get out there again and do something with my dancing. Eventually it was my college tutor Jamie Jenkins who told me about the BBC Young Dancer 2017 competition and told me to go for it. So I did.”
And so here Tom is, 10 months since the competition first launched in June last year, with a huge amount to look back and reflect on: “I think the main reason this competition stands out, is because the dance styles are separated. They also get judges in who really understand each style. This draws in people of my age who not only love their individual dance style, but have also studied it. You’re going to find a higher calibre of dancer in a competition at this level.”
He went on: “I’m very proud of how far I’ve come since I first started. The work I’ve had to put in to get my routines to a good enough standard to reach this point has been tough. But it’s been really fun and the people I’ve met along the way have been great. It’s all been worth it, especially all the friends I’ve made.”
Tom isn’t sure what the future holds for him at this point, although he said he’d love to go back to his roots and dance in a Michael Jackson themed tribute show. There’s also been plenty of inspiration around him to keep pushing his creativity forwards.
He said: “Alex ‘Mechanical’ Peters, my mentor from the show is one of my idols, as well as other dancers I watch on YouTube like ‘GreenTech’ and ‘Soul. They’re all inspirational to me. Even the people I come across in all these competitions generally inspire me. A lot of ‘poppers’ tend to dance to pop music but I like to try and dance to all sorts of music.
“I think whatever music I can dance to, the more varied my style becomes.”
Tom will be dancing twice in the street dance finals, his first dance to ‘Holding On’ by Gregory Porter and the second to ‘Down the Road’ by C2C. To see him in action, tune into BBC Four on Friday March 24, at 8pm.
Article written by Rachel Wheatley.