This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Onika Powell aka NEEKS. Born and Raised in Toronto, Neeks began dancing at a young age training in Caribbean Folk and African dancing. Continuing to nurture her natural abilities she branched out into the Urban Dance Community in high school and joined one of Toronto’s most prominent female Hip Hop crews RUKUS, training under the direction of Diana Webley. She’s been fortunate to train and work not only with her RUKUS Family but also under the direction of Toronto’s own Luther Brown, Tanisha Scott and JaeBlaze as well as choreographers like Fatima Robinson, HiHat and JaQuel Knight. She can be seen featured in videos for Sean Paul, Diddy, Rihanna and many more. She currently co-choreographs and dances for Kardinal Offishall, and has done live stage shows for Nicole Scherzinger, Black Eyed Peas and Massari to name a few. She invests time into training and teaching others here in Toronto, Vancouver and most recently Bermuda. Neeks’ continues to use her talents to travel, building and sharing her craft mostly focusing on Hip Hop and Dancehall. She has used her natural performance abilities to tap into the world of acting appearing in Hellcats, How She Moves and Honey. She has spent the last year and a half living in Vancouver before recently making the move to London, England. Continuing to pursue her dreams living by the motto that “Everything happens for a reason, just don’t question the reason.” Find out what Neeks had to say in this weeks shout out…..
Bio written by Nikki
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Neeks: I remember dancing at family functions and birthday parties (Must be that Trini blood…lol). My mother put me in a Caribbean dance group named SCYDE. That’s where I began training in Caribbean Folk and African dancing. It wasn’t til I was in high school where I started to train and dance in the urban community, and when I joined RUKUS, an all female Toronto Dance Group.
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Neeks: I actually have no recollection of the first song I choreographed to. I was always a lover of other people’s choreography. I never really began putting my own moves and steps together until I joined RUKUS. That was the great thing about our choreographer Diana Webley, she gave the group room and opportunities to create and share ideas. I owe a lot to her.
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Neeks: This is something that I continue to work on myself, but I will share some great advice that I have been given by some great choreographers I have been blessed to work with: Stick to what you do and know… especially in an audition. Also, take class when and if you can. Learning different styles really does help you evolve your own personal style. Lose yourself in the music. There is no right or wrong way to dance to a song. Free styling is YOUR interpretation. Dance to YOUR own beat of the drum.
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Neeks: Loud speakers and big mirror. I like to feel the music, as if I am at a concert or jam. Then I close my eyes, picture what I would like to see… open them and create in front of the mirror. Some of my best stuff comes from dreams, but that is whole other story. Lol.
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Neeks: So many artist, choreographers and dancers in the industry inspire and influence me; it’s impossible for me to name them all. Most recently I have been blessed to work with JaQuel Knight in Bermuda for a dance workshop and in London dancing for Nicole Scherzinger, and he has definitely made an impact on me. He is beyond talented and I don’t even think the world has begun to see his true talents. If you have worked with him you know what I am talking about.
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Neeks:I absolutely love my Canadian choreographers… Diana Webley, Luther Brown, JaeBlaze, Tamla Matthews, Mark Samuels as well as fellow RUKUS member Latoya Webley, who I co-choreograph with for Kardinal Offishall. They all hold special places in my heart. I love their style and passion for their craft. They all have a lot to do with the dancer I am today. I am forever grateful.
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
Neeks: That is a tough one. I guess I would have to take it back home and say Kardinal Offishall. The energy he puts into his work and performances is CRAZY. I have been dancing for him for about 8 years and we are like family. He allows and trusts me with the choreography and does not have a problem in jumping in for one or two steps. When we are on stage, it’s one big family. He checks in on me on projects outside of his own and I appreciate that. It’s a blessing to have worked with him all these years.
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Neeks: I just recently moved to London, England and it has been a true blessing. I danced for Nicole Scherzinger on Britain’s Got Talent and we are doing Summer Time Ball Concert at Wembley Stadium. I am headed back to Vancouver next week to do some workshops, shoot a new movie called Rags and perform with Kardinal Offishall for 94.5FM The Beat Beach Ball Concert.
Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?
Neeks: Speaking from my experience and where I have travelled, I would say our style MIGHT be a little different if anything. We have a big performing dancehall community that I have not yet to see anywhere else other than Jamaica of course, and still yet not when it comes to females. I think because Toronto is culturally diverse, our dance community also reflects that and we are able to adept anywhere in the world.
Nikki:Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Neeks: Love what you do and invest in your craft. Research, research, research. Anybody who knows me knows that the Internet is my best friend. Interact and learn from others; see what works for them and what would work for you. Everyone has his or her own path, so embrace your own. I promise the universe will make room for you, if it was meant to be. Faith, Family and Friends have been my source for motivation and strength thus far… the best advice I can give is to FIND YOURS.
THANK YOU NEEKS FOR BEING PART OF T.D.O.T. XO
CHECK OUT NEEKS PERFORIMING WITH NICOLE SCHERZINGER ON BRITAN’S GOT TALENT………..