Jemma van Breda is a dancer extraodinaire who recently started her organisation called Unity, which strives to become a one-of-a-kind platform for the art forms of dance, music, acting, film, fitness, yoga, performing arts and all things creative operating nationally and internationally. The talented
19-year-old La Lucia resident spoke to The Weekly Gazette about her life and career.
The Weekly Gazette (WG): How did the name for the organisation come about?
Jemma van Breda (JB): It came about from the culture that we see in the performing arts industry. Many artists are separated or limited due to contracts and competition and so, UNITY was what we, as an organisation, strived to create for our nation in order to authentically uplift our industry. We wanted people to know that our platform is a space for anyone and everyone, regardless of your background. In addition to this, our strategies for re-energizing are on the foundations of teamwork and patriotism. Our nation is so uniquely diverse and beautiful and so, instead of working in isolation – we invite all South Africans to join our journey and space, in unison.
WG: What age were you when you started performing?
JB: I began dancing at the age of eleven (eight years ago) but competed in Rhythmic Gymnastics from the age of seven.
WG: You have several accolades under your belt, can you tell us a little about that?
JB: I have competed and performed on many stages across the country and the world. My most memorable achievements so far have been: Receiving a scholarship to Millennium Dance Complex in LA, California, representing South Africa by winning ten golds and two overall division plates at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA, California). Performing with the likes of Madhuri Dixit, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh and Siddarth Maholtra at the South Africa and India Film and Television Awards (SAIFTA). Performing in a flashmob screened on The Ellen Show with the likes of ‘Twitch’, Kathryn McCormick, Comfort Fedoke, ‘Madd Chad’ and Jasmine Harper – So You Think You Can Dance, Step Up and celebrity dancers. Training with Abby Lee of Abby Lee Dance Company, Santa Monica, with Maddie Ziegler, Jojo Gomez, Kalani Hilker and Nia Soux and having the courage and dedication to successfully open and run an all-encompassing arts organisation – UNITY.
WG: You have achieved so much at such a young age, do you think you have achieved all that you wish to achieve in life or there is more?
JB: Not even close. I have been blessed and have worked enough to achieve a lot of what I wanted to earlier than expected however, this is only the beginning. My experience now acts as the groundwork for an empire to be built upon. I want to put our diverse South Africa on the map – culturally. I want to give those who cannot afford the opportunity the chance to realise their potential. I want to create masterpieces and lifetime memories/ legacies. I want to exchange talent globally and I want UNITY to become the ultimate connection for all artists and creatives across the country.
WG: You must travel
a lot, tell us about the places that you have been and what was the experience like?
JB: I spent a month in the North Hollywood Arts District in California, LA, I was attending a scholarship at Millennium Arts Dance Complex and was dancing and traveling around the city from morning till night. It truly was the most incredible and eye-opening experience. It actually taught me a lot about our own country and to appreciate the diversity and non-commercialism we have here. I loved every second of it but couldn’t wait to get home to share my experiences with the people of South Africa – hence, UNITY.
WG: I am sure you no longer get nervous before a performance, do you?
JB: Every time I am about to go on stage it is like my first time. I get an insane amount of butterflies and I am a perfectionist at heart. That is why I try to make every performance better than the last because no one remembers your first – you are remembered in a primacy affect for the most recent time on stage. For this reason, I put a lot of pressure on myself as a soloist but in and amongst all the nerves backstage. I truly am in my absolute element and smile every time I kiss the stage and say a little prayer.
WG: Do you recall the first time you went on stage to perform, what was it like?
JB: I was eleven years old when I performed at my first annual studio show. I still have the video (and costume) and can remember it
like it was yesterday. I absolutely loved it – we were given a lot of chances to improvise throughout the piece and I went creative crazy. I was also on stage with all of my friends which made the group performance one that I will always remember.
WG: If you had to change your career, what would you do?
JB: I would definitely get involved in as many artistic venues as possible. My next love is choreography which translates
into directing and production – I love film so I think I would pursue a career in that alongside tourism because I believe in incorporating South Africa and my love for the country into everything I do.
WG: What do you love most about what you do?
JB: I love the people. I love meeting new people, collaborating with new people and seeing the diversity in other people’s styles. I especially love that, in the line of work I do, new people don’t stay new for very long and at the end of the day – us creatives are like one big family.
WG: We all have that one thing that helps us relax after a long day at work, what’s yours?
JB: I love to watch a good movie, especially with family or friends. I’m a sucker for cinematic feels and it just puts me in a good mood to enjoy every second of a well-thought-out movie.
WG: What book are you currently reading if any?
JB: At the moment I’m reading Girl Code by Cara Alwill Leyba. It’s a female take on entrepreneurship that holds the mantra; there’s more than enough success to go around.
WG: If you were given a chance to change one thing in your life, what would you change?
JB: Nothing. I believe even the smallest decisions that I have made in life have lead me to where I am today. If I want to change something, I have the power to do so in the present, not in the past.
WG: What advice would you give to aspiring dancers/performers?
JB: Honestly, work as hard as
you can in every aspect of life. That includes not giving up, that includes technique and performance, that includes sportsmanship and setting goals and that includes getting yourself where you want to be.
Input most certainly determines output – try to give everything
110% whether it’s being a good friend backstage or giving it your
all in practice: work as hard as
you can – passion will be your greatest friend in doing so. (HINT: if you have passion – it won’t feel like work!).