By Jerry Del Priore
A few years ago, sisters Sadia and Cienna Cambridge dreamed of what seemed like the impossible to most people in their Glenwood housing complex community located in Canarsie, Brooklyn: Start a dance program for New York City children.
Strut N Strive Kingdom Dance team (formerly known as Couture Girls), an all-volunteer run co-ed dance program, started out with a modest four dancers and a vision that has grown to over 50 strong to date.
Groups of dancers ages seven to 19 compete all over New York City and nationwide in hip-hop and majorette (basically choreographed dance or movement, primarily associated with marching bands), with a handful of first-, second-, and third-place finishes under the team’s belt.
But the pinnacle of success for SSKD came when it appeared on the hit Lifetime reality dance TV show Bring It!, which features the dance team, The Dancing Dolls, from Mississippi, in February 2017.
The Dancing Dolls are a top competition dance team that competes in hip-hop majorette style, a routine that combines hip-hop, cheerleading and majorette moves, among other forms. So, when it came to the call-out battle round on the show to decide the winner, it marked a highpoint for the SSKD program, which is relatively new to majorette competition, Sadia, 25, noted.
“That was a great experience, and a lot exposure for our team, being the only New York team to actually go against the Dancing Dolls,” said Sadia, a former South Shore High School Vikings booster. “So, we actually put New York on the map for that.”
While the national TV experience propelled SSKD into the limelight (even though it came up short), the whole competition aspect is still costly, especially when it needs to travel to remote locations to thrust and thrive. Add on the expense of costumes, hair and makeup, which the program helps with, and Sadia said it makes operating the program extremely difficult at times.
In addition to the $50 a month fee families pay per child, plus the aforementioned miscellaneous expenses, SSKD performs fundraising concerts and partakes in bake sales to offset the costs. But there is still the financial strain on the program, which practices in less-than-perfect conditions, as it lacks a studio space at the moment.
However, SSKD makes do with the resources at its disposal, and always put the safety of the children first.
“I have been in this (Glenwood) community center since I was eight years old. This is still home to me,” Sadia explained. “But when I feel someone is just not pleased about where the area is, I’m going make sure, even if I got to walk them to the bus, they’re fine and safe, and they get on the bus.”
With the steadfast commitment the coaches put forth, SSKD requires the children to make an absolute dedication to the program, practicing the art of dance six days a week as well as performing up to par in the classroom. Otherwise, Sadia, said, they don’t get to attend the program if they don’t follow the rules.
But dancing is filling a void when going out in the community isn’t a viable option.
“It’s mainly just to keep them off the streets,” Sadia said. “That’s our main focus, because our neighborhood, growing up around here, is not a fun place to be. So why not just try to do something in this community center where these kids can dance?”
Plus, “I want them to do something positive and just see more than just these buildings (in the complex) because, when they travel, it’s so exciting for them,” she added. “I just want them to see more than this neighborhood.”
Patrice Mckoy—whose 10-year-old daughter, Sahara Lancaster, is part of SSKD—sang the praises of the program, and what it has done for her once-shy offspring.
“She’s coming out of her shell,” Mckoy said. “This team is allowing her to blossom in a way where she can be free, and express herself. She loves dancing. It gave her life, and health-wise, she’s getting in shape.”
SSKD is schedule to perform an approximately three and half minute routine at the Brooklyn Nets/Boston Celtics game at halftime at the Barclays Center on Friday, March 17, to increase its exposer and showcase its energetic shake-and-groove talent.
To see SSKD in action and to donate to the program, look them up on YouTube.com at Strut N Strive dance team and log onto https://www.gofundme.com/help-raise-sskd-raise-for-a-studio.