Q&A with The South End Show Stopperz

Name: South End Show Stopperz
Location: Boston, MA

The historic South End neighborhood, in Boston (MA), is known as a high end community to many. Known for it's 5 star restaurants and fancy condos, to say the least. But to those who grew up in the heart of it, like myself, it’s slightly different. My South End suffers from gang related violence, which at times had led to innocent people being seriously hurt and even killed. Drugs are a walk to the park away and youth programs struggle to maintain funding. Growing up we would make the best of any situation. Wether it was organizing our own baseball game, or just taking a walk to Down Town and catching a movie. I was fortunate enough to stay out of jail and make it past 21 (as funny as that may sound to some of you). Sad to say, many of my friends were not as lucky.

This month, when it was time to choose my final Q&A Interview for the year, I decided to interview someone from my own neighborhood, who in my eyes is making a difference beyond her understanding. Her name is Johanna Acevedo. She is a full time employee at the Administration & Finance office at Emerson College. Alongside Syreeta Ruiz, a full time student at Mt. Ida College, they founded The South End Show Stopperz dance group. It is made up of a group of teenage girls who fight the statistics by dancing. I had the honor of visiting a few of their practices and talking to a bunch of the girls. I quickly noticed how they rarely called themselves "a group". Many of them kept using the words “family” and “friends” when describing the program and it’s leaders. It was truly amazing for me to see these girls in action. 

(I sat down with Johanna and spoke about the group)

How did the group come about & who's responsible for the birth?

"Both of us have always had a passion for dance. I was part of Flor De Maga, a Puerto Rican folkloric dance group based out of the Villa Victoria. They performed a variety of music, But mostly Plena, Bomba and other traditional Puerto Rican dances. We had a few girls approach us about creating a dance team, we spoke to a few parents and started the group back in 2010, with four girls. Our first performance ever was at ‘Tightly Laced Kicks’. We are both evenly responsible for starting the group and we both do our share to keep it going."

When was it created & what was the reason behind it?

"The South End ShowStopperz Dance Team was founded in August of 2010. Growing up, there were plenty of youth programs in the South End. At that time, there wasn’t that many programs or things to do. The dance team, not only helps girls express themselves through music, but it also creates a bond and sisterhood. We are more then a dance team. We are a program designed to empower and strengthen young women in our society through team building."

What kind of dancing do the girls do & who choreographs the dances?

“The dance team performs all different types of routines; from Hip Hop, Latin, Folkloric and Afro Caribbean. Both of us do choreography for the dances, but we also allow the girls to input any ideas they may have.”

Where have they performed thus far?

"We have performed all over Boston. From the Pride Festival, to St. Patrick’s Day. The Afro Caribbean Parade and many more. We’ve done a lot these last years."

How much time do they spend practicing? Where do they practice?

“We practice twice a week at of the Blackstone Community Center, in the South End."

Since it's creation and growth, have you received any outside help?

"We are proud to say that we have always been a self-maintained program. We fundraise to provide the girls with new outfits, accessories, shoes, etc."

What are some challenges you & the girls have faced? (If any at all)

"We all have one common goal, and that is to work together to create an amazing dance team. This is something we have continued and are proud to do."

What are your plans for the girls? ...and why just girls in the group?

"For us, it is easier to work with girls. We only work with teen girls because we can relate to them more easily. We don’t want it to be a ‘teacher-student’ relationship. We are friends. We laugh, we play, we dance. It’s a great balance. We wouldn’t have the same atmosphere if it was a boy and girls program, or a program for younger aged children. Our goal? Well, we hope to eventually try out for 'America’s Got Talent' and represent Boston!"

When did you realize that this was now a second job for you? ..and did that make you think about giving up?

"I enjoy working with the group, so although it takes as much work as a second job, it doesn’t feel like it. No, we have never thought about leaving the program. This is an experience that all girls should have. All teens should have somewhere they can go and be themselves. That is why we do this."

Is their anything that may help improve the group?

"We are always open to donations but we hope to eventually gain sponsors. For more information on how to do that: email us at SE_SHOWSTOPPERZ@hotmail.com. Also, check us out on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram (@SE_ShowStopperz)."