What is you stage name? Twinkle T, Tina De Melo
And in what year did you win the DHQK title? 2015
Can you describe a bit about the competition the year you won?
The 2015 DHDK comp was the first comp back after a long break since Nadiah Idris won in 2008. The judges were Latonya Style and Craig from Black Eagles. It was an amazing experience particularly as it was part of the True Jamaican dancehall festival, which is a festival that consists of a weekend long dancehall camp where you get to learn about the history of dancehall, learn about the culture and dance from dancehall artists straight from the streets of Jamaica, as well as those those who teach dancehall in Australia. At the beginning I did feel a bit intimidated, as the previous DHQ was center front of the stage with her big ass smile. However that settled quickly as the competition was very uplifting a night filled with good vibes, everyone there just to have a good time, cheer each other on, almost didn’t feel like a competition as everyone was so supportive of each other which doesn’t really happen in other dance comps. But that’s the beauty of dancehall it has the power to bring communities together with good vibes, competition or not.
Can you describe a little bit about your dance history?
Initially I started dancing in year 10 after injuring my knee in soccer I had to sit in on a hip hop dance class where a guest hip hop teacher was teaching and I fell in love. From there I got into hip hop dancing and was apart of the A.R.A.B project. I met Catherine Pwiti through A.R.A.B whom was apart of Burn City Queens (BCQ) Melbournes first Dancehall group with Shanti, and she was only 1 of 2 people teaching Dancehall in Melbourne and she took me under her wings. I fell in love with dancehall from there on watching the way she moved as well as the music, it just resonated with me. I attended her classes, picked her brains about the culture and later joined BCQ in 2010. In 2011 I started with Indigenous Hip Hop Projects traveling to remote Indigenous communities all around Australia, using Hip Hop dancing as a medium to promote health. This is probably my favorite work so far as I get to discover the raw hidden dance talents out there.
Why did you decide to enter the competition?
I entered the comp because Cat kept pushing me to do it hehehe. I also entered because I got inspired at the True Jamaican Dancehall Camp and just wanted to share the stage and my love for dancehall with all other dancehall enthusiast in Australia. There was also an opportunity to go to Jamaica and compete in the International Dancehall Queen comp, which I thought would be fun. So I thought to myself heck yeah what have I got to lose? nothing, what have I got to gain? a trip to Jamaica to further increase my dance vocab at DanceJA, live and breathe the culture in the streets of Jamaica, and eat Jerk Chicken for two weeks. What an experience that was, not only getting to Jamaica, but getting to compete against all these talented International Dancehall queens, have limited preparation, and placing top 10. For real though, at the start I was so scared that I only prepared one set not thinking I would get through. Then when I got through I had no preparation at all to the point where I don’t even know what song I had chosen to dance too, only to then go on stage and choke on Jerk Chicken hahahah. The best thing was getting to do this alongside my mentor Cat Pwiti and fellow Australian Dancehall Queen Nadiah Idris. So much respect for these ladies, doing so much for Dancehall in Australia.
What sort of preparation did you do in the lead up to the comp?
To be honest I am a bit of a last minute person so I put it off for ages, because I wasn’t sure whether I was going to enter or not, and in true BCQ style preparations started 4 days before (note to self don’t do that again). However I did go hard for those 4 days, and had my songs on repeat everywhere so I just got use to the musicality of it. I also attended the true Jamaican dancehall camp, and festival which enabled me to build on true dancehall steps and practice the actual groove. I had themes which made it kind of easier and if I forgot on stage I just smiled, laughed at myself, pulled a face and just did what my body felt like doing at the time (good or bad) hehe. Sometimes you just have to be in the moment and not overthink everything.
Who are some of your dance inspirations ?
Michael Jackson I think he was every dancers inspiration and that is self-explanatory. Catherine Pwiti- growing up watching her dance in all different styles I’m always in awe of her, this little pocket rocket whose hair is bigger than her, and moves in ways that doesn’t make sense. She also has an amazing work ethic, I admire how hard she works, and love watching her always wanting to grow and improve in every way possible.
What are you favorite dancehall steps?
Wow there’s so many to name, they just get better and better, which is why I love it because dancehall is always growing. However can’t go past a good old Bogle, such a feel good step. Also can’t go past the old skool steps that are the foundations of this style, must always go back to the roots of it all.
How have things been for you since winning the competition?
My love for this style has just grown. Going to Jamaica opened up my eyes to the actual culture of it all, not just the dance, which has made me value it a lot. It’s nice and I feel humbled when I get recognized as a DHQ, but I think all women who are engaging in dancehall are queens, doesn’t matter if you’ve entered or been crowned from a competition. One of my favorite things is being able to go out to remote communities and teaching young people dancehall that just have this natural rhythm and pick it up so fast. They are just insane! Dancehall has also taught me to be liberated in my own skin, and be more confident as a women despite all its sexual connotations. Its just beautiful to see strong women, confident in their skin, no matter what shape, size, colour, race, hair and wig.
What advise do you have for people thinking about entering?
Go for it, have fun, be yourself, feel the music and attend the true Jamaican dancehall camp to learn all about the culture. Don’t go learn dancehall from dancehall teachers who have no idea about the history and who teach watered down dancehall to hip hop music cause there is a big movement in that at the moment which is killing the culture. Practice, let yourself make mistakes your humans, laugh it off and if all else fails just DANCE and move the way your body is telling you to in the moment. If you are someone who is not really confident and are insecure, it is totally normal because for that night you can be whoever you want to be, dress up as a character, pick a theme, DO YOU! DANCE and be in the moment! Everyones a winner.
Burn City Queens – VisuaLee, Enshante, Kitty Cat, Twinkle T
What does the future hold for Tina De Melo?
Good question? When you find out can you let me know? Nah ummm… I always want to grow- Literally. hahahahah.. Dancewise I want to continue dancing with my dancehall group BCQ and continually attend rehearsals thanks to my girl Shanti and her wake up calls. I want to continually grow and learn as many steps as possible, which is going to be a challenge because its forever growing. I want to do more work with young people in community and continually use dance as a great engagement tool to talk about important issues affecting the youth in our country. I don’t only want to grow in Dancehall, but also in hip-hop and afro-beats which are other styles that feed my soul!