13-year-old dancer bridges gender gap in dance

Breaking it Down

At 13, Keira Marietta Sumaquial Howard is already breaking norms in a male-dominated style of dance. “Equality is something I strive for, not only in the dance community but in general,” she says. “Aside from loving this style, I also do it in order to show young girls that they can do whatever they like whether or not it is considered ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine.’” The student of Elevate Dance Company in Stockton is referring to the dance style dubbed popping, a street dance with roots in Oakland, that she was first introduced to by her favorite dancer Jaja (@jajavankova) at a dance competition. “I knew I really loved this style, and I could focus on this style even though it’s primarily guys who pop,” Keira says. “I really like that it can add accents to almost any move.”

Keira has been dancing for ten years, since taking up ballet at age 3. In addition to the popping style that she likes most, an extension of more traditional hip-hop dancing, the young dancer also competes in jazz, lyrical, and contemporary dance styles. “I need to make sure I’m strong with all of them, even the ones that aren’t necessarily popping,” she says. Hip-hop, however, remains one of her favorite types of dance, and while she doesn’t exclusively pop, Keira says she works the movements into her hip-hop competition dances. ”My personal dance style is a blend of many styles, that includes popping,” she says.

The student at John Mccandless Stem Charter School plans to continue her career in dance, which includes a long list of awards from solos and group dances at national competitions and a first place overall win in her age category from Spotlight Dance Competition in 2019 for a hybrid blend of contemporary, modern, hip-hop, and popping, into adulthood. “I’m not exactly sure [what I want to be when I grow up] yet, but I know it has something to do with dance.”

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Elevate Dance Company
7147 Pacific Ave., Stockton
(209) 425-2828

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