You might remember her and her dance company, the YCDT Supastarz, making a few guest appearances on Lifetime’s Bring It. Well now the fabulous, the oh-so fierce Artistic Director, Traci Young-Byron and her crew of highly trained young beautiful black boys and girls from Miami Florida, are returning to the big screen…and this time with their own show.
That’s right! The woman who was given the nickname Grace Jones and her team will be starring in their own Docuseries centered around nothing but them…and dance. And guess what?! It airs tonight. Yes I know it’s last minute, but I bet you will still be watching.
Mrs. Traci made a positive impression on us watching her on a few episodes of Bring It so we knew she was going to have her own show! If you know her, then you know she doesn’t take no mess and she’s all about her business. But in case you don’t know, not only is she a director, former Miami Heat dancer, and teacher, but a phenomenal woman who instills nothing but confidence, self love, and fortitude in her dancers. She takes dancers from the inner cities and molds them into trained dancers! Looking how sharp these young men and women are makes me want to practice doing a couple plie’s.
I got the chance to chat with Traci and man, did she have a lot of tea for us. Read our interview below and find out about her team, having her own show, having no yelling moms on her show (hmm), and what we can look forward to from the show.
1.) Tell me. Who is Traci Young-Byron? Likes? Dislikes? Interests? Education?
Traci Young-Byron is a hard working, energetic, bold, vibrant, confident and type A woman that loves dance and adores her family. My likes include fashion, educating, shopping and taking naps. I dislike lazy people, quitters, birds, dogs and unorganized people/situations. I am a graduate of The Florida State University and I have a BFA Degree in Dance.
2.)What inspired you to begin dancing?
I began dancing at the tender age of 3 but fell in love with dance at 9 years old. Growing up as a dark chocolate little girl, I often felt I had no voice. Those struggles led and inspired me to dance. Dance was an outlet, a place where my voice could be heard and where I could freely express myself without being judged…so I thought.
3.) How was it dancing with one of the hottest NBA dance teams, the Miami Heat?
Dancing with the Miami Heat Dancers for 9 seasons and the WNBA Miami Sol Patrol for 1 season were some of the best years of my life! Performing in front of huge crowds and screaming fans was exhilarating. The Heat afforded me opportunities to travel around the world…Brazil, Colombia, China, Dominican Republic, South Africa…just to name a few. I currently hold the title as longest dancer in Heat dancer history and I was also the Captain for 6 seasons and Assistant Choreographer for 2 seasons.
4.) What inspired you to open your own dance company, YCDT? And tell me a little about PAVAC?
In 2004, I started a company with 14 dancers called The Addiction Dance Company. It’s sole purposes were to educate, motivate and elevate through dance. In 2010, I changed the name to the Young Contemporary Dance Theatre because I wanted a name that was positive and forever youthful. I am very influential in the community and I felt that it was necessary to leave my mark. PAVAC stands for Performing and Visual Arts Center. It’s a high school program designed for students who’d like to pursue a career as an artist however, the large majority of the students enter into the program with very little training. It is my responsibility as the dance director to mold and transform the students into beautiful dancers. My role in YCDT is the exact same.
5.) How did the opportunity with Lifetime come about?
The opportunity with Lifetime came about as a result of me being showcased on another Lifetime show, Bring It! My on camera personality was bold, energetic and often times made people uncomfortable. My dancers were a force to be reckoned with and the show’s dynamic shifted each we appeared on Bring It!
6.) Were you nervous or hesitant to film a reality show?
I was definitely hesitant about filming a reality show. I often questioned if I was prepared to share my story, my life and expose my vulnerabilities to the world. I do however believe that I have gift that the people need to see and hear. If my dancers and I can touch at least 1 person throughout this journey, mission accomplished.
7.) How does your show differ from other reality shows centered around dance? Such as “Bring It” and “Dance Moms?”
Step It Up differs from other reality shows centered around dance because I (the director) have a degree in Dance and I have a successful career as a professional dancer. My experiences allows me to offer my students real insight and opportunities that can/will prepare them mind, body and spirit. The show is inspiring and heartfelt…in a militant kind of way. My dancers vary in age, teenagers and adults. Most importantly, there are no yelling moms.
8.) What message are you trying to send through your show?
The message that I’d like to convey is hard work truly pays off. Don’t focus so much on the end result that you forget to enjoy the process. Dance is a universal language. Don’t let people’s misinterpretation of your upbringing and situation dictate your success. Be unapologetically you!
9.) Your team is filled with girls who are all black, beautiful young women-as well as boys. I love how you advocate for self love and overall positiveness. How do you maintain your teams confidence in such a competitive sport? And how is it incorporating male dancers in your routines?
Black is unique…black is beautiful. I embed that into my dancers daily! I maintain confidence in my dancers because I exude confidence. My dancers look to me for reassurance and support. It’s not always easy being positive but it’s so much easier and beneficial than being negative. Incorporating male dancers in my pieces is a challenge sometimes when trying to find that balance of staying true to who I am as a choreographer while maintaining the masculinity needed from them in each piece.
10.) What is one thing you want the world to know about you and your team?
The one thing I want the world to know about me and my company is that we are different…in every sense of the word. While technique and diversity are essential, we have no desire to be like or dance like anyone else. We are trailblazers.
11.) What can we look forward to for this season of “Step It Up?”
During this season of STEP IT UP, the audience can look forward to high stakes performances, different styles of dance, tough love, unconventional teaching methods, silly moments, great fashion and Supa fly sneakers!
12.) If someone wanted to be part of YCDT, what is the number one requirement?
If someone wanted to be apart of YCDT, the number one requirement is discipline. Number 2 is passion.
13) Anything else you would like to say or add?
YCDT is a company primarily compromised dancers ranging from ages 4-adult. A lot of the kids come from underserved communities and seek YCDT as refuge. I’m a disciplinarian but I’m also a comforter, in my own way. YCDT has a 100% high school graduation rate and 95% of them are honors students. I provide scholarships to high school seniors for college. YCDT has a great number of Alumni that are working professional dancers.
Welp, you heard it here first. Traci ain’t got time for no games and this season, we will see how serious she takes her craft. Don’t forget to watch Step It Up tonight on Lifetime 10 ET/PT.
By: Simone Grant