While six-year-old Ajahne Reid entered the World Championship of Performing Arts (WCOPA) competition in Long Beach, California, hoping to be a model, she left as a gold-medal-winning dancer. Ajahne took first place in her age group of five-to-seven-year-olds. She originally entered the contest as a model after being scouted by Denesha Wright, who was involved with the competition in 2017.
Ajahne’s mother Keron Pinnock said that her teacher discovered the girl’s talent and recognized her desire to dance and her love for it. “She was always a moving child,” Pinnock said. Ajahne’s modeling audition occurred in November of 2017, but upon her return to Jabnea Christian Academy in Westmoreland to resume her schooling in January 2018, Wright informed her mother that a talent scout had suggested the child enter the dance competition in addition to the modeling event. Although there was concern about Ajahne’s technical skills, her teacher choreographed a hip-hop routine for the girl, who danced to a song by Stefflon Don, a rapper influenced by dancehall.
Wright said she really wanted Ajahne to be a model and had trained her for that role, but she learned the choreography very quickly and spent five weeks perfecting her performance. The hard work paid off for the six-year-old who had no previous dance experience. “”I feel good,” Ajahne stated about her win to The Gleaner. In addition
to Ajahne, Jamaican Kenrick Sharpe was also scouted by Wright and won three medals and a scholarship at the WCOPA. Wright herself was awarded Outstanding Coach of the Year for 2018, WCOPA is an Olympic-style international meet held every year to give aspiring performers and entertainers a chance to be seen. Musicians, dancers, variety artists, actors, models, and singers compete at the event, which also includes performing arts workshops and seminars given by experts in the field. According to Pinnock, there is more value than just the cash prizes. The exposure is a notable feature for the contestants, since scholarship agencies and modeling agencies often sign participants after seeing them at WCOPA.
A total of ten Jamaicans entered the competition this year, and Wright is calling for more. She has organized two open calls for October 2018. One will be at the NDTC Dance Studio in Kingston on October 8, 2018, and another will be held at the Green Tree Dance Studio in Montego Cay on October 20. Wright said she knew there were people who wanted to dance but feel their families will not allow them to do so. According to Pinnock, art is not widely recognized in Jamaica, but she feels that competitions like WCOPA represent movement in the right direction.