My name is Aminata O’Dell, I am 22 years young and a senior at Florida International University. I was born in Brooklyn, NY but raised in Miami, FL. My mother made sure I was given opportunities to follow whatever talent or dream I wanted. My love for the arts began at The African Heritage Culture Arts Center. It was there that I was connected with my dance mother/idol Mrs. Traci Young-Byron. The dance style and discipline is what attracted me initially. It wasn’t until I experienced being apart of her work in a show that I found my passion in being one of her student. I dance for two seasons with Addiction Dance Company during high school. Starting out my dance career, I was very intimidated by those who worked with Mrs. Young-Byron prior to my arrival with the company. I knew she saw passion and potential in me and that was enough for me to strive to be great. The balance between school and the company had begun to take a toll on my studies so my mother took me out of the company until I was able to balance equally my dance and school schedule. Upon my graduation from North Miami Senior High, I was allowed to join the company again, which had now become Young Contemporary Dance Theatre and had grown drastically. I grew with the company for the 2 years and then auditioned for my university’s dance team. I remained on the Golden Dazzler team for 2 years and auditioned for The Miami Marlins in 2014. I am now a rookie for The Miami Marlins and I know it was made possibly from the experience working with Mrs. Traci Young Byron. Mrs. Byron has provided so many opportunities for young girls and have taught us so many life lesson. She is an well rounded teacher not just for the art of dance but teaching the young how to attack life and own it in their own way. I am blessed to be apart of her great work and I will forever be a supporter of ADC, YCDT, and TYB!
Ana Dominguez, born in the beautiful islands of the Dominican Republic, a native of Miami, FL, began training with Mrs. Traci Young-Byron at the age of 5 while she spearheaded a plethora of the dance classes offered at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center Summer Program. Later she transitioned into The Addiction Dance Co., now known as The Young Contemporary Dance Theater. Ana is an alumnus of William H. Turner Technical Sr. High School and recently graduated from the University of Florida, with a B.F.A in Dance Performance and a specialization in Costume Design with high honors. Ana had the pleasure to be one of the 4 four selected seniors in her department to present a senior solo, choreographed by Mohamad DaCosta from West Africa, in her final showcase. This past summer of 2013, Ana interned with the National Dance Institute in Harlem, New York and has trained with many professionals from all over the world who have come in as residents for the Universities Dance program.
Ana stated, “Mrs. Young-Byron was the reason I pursed my Bachelors degree in Fine Arts. She molded me into someone she knew I could become and never lost hope in what she knew I could do. It is with great pride and honor that I dedicate all of my accomplishments and this degree to her. Without her guidance, training and mentorship, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Although I have worked with a number of professional choreographers, no one compares to the charismatic and extremely dynamic Traci Young-Byron. I often thank her for the work she put into me, but I truly thank her for giving me life through dance and never giving up. It is because of you that today I have pursed my passion, and plan to change lives the way you have done right before my eyes. If I could personally nominate her for a noble prize, there would be no question about it. Conclusively, “Special” shout out to my Spec of the Kappa Epsilon Chapter of the Illustrious Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. I couldn’t be more elated to be your Spec and Soror! OO-OOP! AOML!
Darnisha Latoya Avant was born and raised in Miami, FL by her parents Darryl Avant and Cassandra Rhodes. Darnisha is the eldest of 5 siblings. All in all, she had large shoes to fill. Darnisha attended William. H. Turner Technical Arts High School where she was involved in VOE (Voices of Expressions), HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America), and she was also a part of the Junior Varsity women’s basketball team at Miami Norland Senior High School. At a young age, Darnisha always had a passion for dance. She was a part of the magnet dance program at Charles R. Drew Middle School under the direction of Ms. Padron and soon after graduating from high school she joined the Addiction Dance Company under the direction of Mrs. Young-Byron. Darnisha was a member of the dance company for 2 years and in the spring of 2011; she moved to Orlando, FL to attend the University of Central Florida to study Elementary Education. Outside of school, sports, and dance, Darnisha also had a love for hairstyling. In 2012 she started her own hair company “Lavish Looks Be” where she does not believe in making women beautiful, but enhancing the beauty that God has already blessed us with. Darnisha believes that the Addiction Dance Company has played a major role in her life still today. Not only did she receive discipline that helped her mature and make better life choices, she also had a director who believed in her, who pushed her, supported her, encouraged her and helped her build self-confidence. And because she had a young woman who inspired and cared for her and many other young women and men, she stands proud of the woman she has become and believes too that it is her duty to give back through the gift of teaching and the art of enhancing women’s beauty.
I am Diona D. Thurston. I am a Pre-Occupational Therapy senior at Florida A&M University. I am formerly a Young Contemporary Dance Theater(ADC) 2009-2011 member and Golden Girl (Co-Captain) 2008-2011. I am also the President of the sister company to YCDT, The Addiction Dance Experience, in Tallahassee, FL. Since 2008 when I began dancing under the direction of Mrs. Young-Byron I have not only grown as a dancer, I grew as a young women as well. A lesson that Mrs. Young-Byron taught me that I will never forget is to remain humble. Humility is a characteristic that I’d never forget to instill within myself because there is no telling of how life may take its course. As a beautiful, black, intelligent young women I have learned from Mrs. Byron to never forget that and to carry myself with much respect. Never would I have thought that I would have such a strong passion and love for dance until I began dancing with Mrs. Young-Byron. She took a hidden talent that I had and brought it to a new light. I have to thank Mama T for showing me how to be confident and taking me to new heights in life. I will never forget where I came from, I am a product of YCDT and Mrs. Young-Byron.
Keenan D. Washington, a native of Miami, FL, began his training with Traci Young-Byron and The Addiction Dance Co., also known as The Young Contemporary Dance Theater. Keenan is an alumnus of New World School of the Arts. He was one of forty dancers chosen from around the world to study in Montreal,Quebec at Springboard Danse Montreal and one of twenty-three dancers chosen from around the world to train at the prestigious School at Jacob’s Pillow, he is currently pursuing a B.F.A in Jazz Dance Performance at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. He is a NAACP ACTSO Local and Regional Gold Medalist, as well as, a NAACP ACTSO National finalist. He has performed commercially with names such as P.Diddy, Ginuwine, Mohombi, K. Rose, Tommy Davison, Tom Joyner, and Sweet Mickey. He has also performed works choreographed by William Forsythe, Marie Chouinard, Anthonny Burrell, Ronen Koresh, Peter London, Abdur- Rahim Jackson, Al Blackstone, Scott Jovovich, Molly Misgalla, Mark Caserta and Tommie Waheed Evans. Keenan has choreographed for The Miami Heat Dancers, New World School of the Arts, and Young Contemporary Dance Theater. He is also signed to the Bloc Agency of NYC for commercial dance and television. Mrs. Young-Byron and YCDT has changed his life for always and forever. Although he has worked professionally, there is no place that can compare to his years of training spent with YCDT. He can true say he owes his everything to Mrs. Young-Byron, for she gave him life through the art of dance. His advice to dancers: “Don’t wait until tomorrow to get serious. The Dancer that will work professionally is doing it NOW.”
I’m Keirra’ Thompson. I was a member of the Addiction Dance Company from the age of 10-13. At the time the company only allowed middle school and high school girls to tryout but since I was able to keep up with the older girls I made the squad. Many of the older alumni remember my mom known as “Mrs. Gail” because she played a huge role in the company. I would have stayed on the team but after my 7th grade year I relocated to Georgia. For 2 year I was an on and of dancer because I could not find a dance company that mimicked or came close to the style as the Addiction Dance Company. My sophomore through senior year in high school I took a modern dance class. I received outstanding sophomore and outstanding junior in my Modern Dance class. I was also nominated twice for the Georgia Governors Honor Programs for dance but only made it to state finals. I am now an upcoming junior at Albany State University where I am the current Co-Captain of the Golden Passionettes, who featured in Robin Thicke Music Video “Give It To Me” and was a part of the 2013 VMA’S. Although I was a part of the team for a few years Ms. Young has still made a major impact in my life. Even though at the time I was too young to understand the advice she often gave me and the girls that were currently on the team now I understand and it has help me become the woman I am today.
Born and raised in Miami,FL; Netilya Cobb was introduced to the world of arts and entertainment at the age of three. Dealing with insecurities and ostracism as an adolescent, the arts became a release and an open door to her freedom of acceptance. Through the arts Netilya not only discovered her talent, but in a world where she was told everything that she wasn’t Netilya Cobb found her relationship with God who released her into her true identity as a warrior and a leader fighting with a purpose beyond self. Netilya Cobb stands by the Phillipans 4:13 “For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Her testimony is told through her journey, and as an entertainer her goal is to use her gifts to shift atmospheres and by Gods’ guidance and wisdom change nations. Netilya Cobb is an alumni of Miami North Western Sr. High and Florida A&M University. With her education and talent she moved to Los Angeles California and has successfully performed with several professional dance companies as well as high profile artist such as Smokie Robinson, Chris Brown, Nick Canon, Rihanna, Victoria Kimani, Calvin Harris, Laura Mulva, etc. along with stage performances such as BET’s Celebration of Gospel and BET music Hip-Hop awards. Netilya Cobb currently holds the position as the CEO/Founder of Alignment Magazine, and Alignment Cultural Arts Center. At the young age of 21, Netilya has discovered that success is locating your true identity, finding purpose, and with the power of faith knocking down every stumbling block by any means necessary.
My name is Rachel Davis. I was a member of Mustangs in Motion and The Addiction Dance Co. for seven years in total. Learning to dance under Mrs. Young-Byron has impacted my life in several ways. The biggest impact I think it has had on me is the confidence I gained over the years. I use it in my daily life now, although I am not a current company member. Being a dancer when I was growing up meant everything to me. I strongly believe, dance is still the best way for me to express myself. I also use the training I got as a company member to stay active and in shape. Staying in shape is especially important for me because I am a model. A major part of my job is staying fit. Overall, my time spent as a company member gave me the tools I needed to be a successful member of society in my adult life. I will forever be grateful for the years I spent learning from, in my opinion, the best dance teacher in Miami, Florida.
Toni Thompson began dancing at the age of 5 at Inner City Touring Dance Company under the direction of Florene Nichols. I danced at Charles Drew Elementary, Charles Drew Middle, Miami Northwestern PAVAC Dance and Miami Northwestern Golden Girls. I was also a part of Black Door Dance Company right out of high school. Nearly 10 years, a husband and two children later; I had the privilege to be a member of the Young Contemporary Dance Theatre for four seasons. I was beyond intimidated, at my first rehearsal. I was not confident in my ability to ‘keep-up’ with the ‘kids’ or the choreography— Traci was on a different level! Her style of dance and choreography wasn’t what I was used to. Traci not only encouraged me, she reconnected me with my love for dance. She allowed me to be a part of not just her company, but her passion and I am grateful for that. Dance was always in my heart but I didn’t have an outlet. Being a part of YCDT reminded me that I needed to rekindle my relationship with dance and free the dancer that was hidden within me. I am very grateful and very proud of the work Traci has and will continue to put into her company. I will always be grateful that I was given the opportunity to be a part of it.
I am Ursula Foster, one of the 14 original members of the Addiction Dance Co. I began dancing at the tender age of 13 under the direction of Mrs. Young-Byron. Currently, I am a YCDT Repertory dancer and personal assistant to our artistic director. I attended Coral Gables Senior High School; where because of my dance training and leadership skills with The Addiction Co. I was able to excel in my classes and after school activities. I am a former member of the regionally recognized Gablettes and also a former member of FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America). Being apart of such an elite dance company has taught me how to be responsible and assertive. One of the toughest, yet; most honorable responsibilities I had within the dance company was when I was selected to be the company’s’ rehearsal director. I actually started out as a basketball player who fell in love with the art of dance and from there I excelled, not only because I was humble and driven but because I had the right mentor who believed in me and who actually took her time to mold me into a professional. Dancing under her (Mrs. Young-Byron) direction has taken me places I never thought I’d have the opportunity to go. I have performed with several actors and artists; such as, Danny Glover, Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey, Abhishek Bachshan (Bollywood), John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra (Bollywood) to name a few. I was even able to utilize my talent and share my knowledge in dance abroad. I taught beginners ballet as well as advance modern and jazz at Music in Motion Dance Co. in St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. While instructing there, I had the privilege of choreographing works that were featured in an annual dance festival in Denmark, Europe. Overall, one of my best decisions in life was when I auditioned for Mrs. Young-Byron’s’ dance company (formerly known as The Addiction Dance Co.).