TelCell’s annual Breakthrough Talent competition returns in just a few weeks to showcase the island’s best young performers. At stake are thousands of dollars in cash and prizes and the chance to become local celebrities: TelCell will feature the winners in its various ad campaigns for the next year.

Last year six winners, George Woodley, Aesha Gibson, Keeshaun Hodge, Diandra Marlin, Kevin Lambert and Leo Alexander, also had to demonstrate their potential as performers to judges working for TelCell and Xtratight Entertainment, the competition’s co-sponsors. The Road to Breakthrough 2017 will interview them to find out how they succeeded and how the next class of performers can step up to the challenge.


About George Woodley

George Woodley wants to be an electrical engineer. He recently left St. Maarten for the Netherlands to start his college career, with the hopes of returning to home to contribute within the local government. Sounds practical? Sure; but he also plays with fire. Rewind to summer 2016: Woodley wanted to showcase his dance skills, but he was known for doing much more. He performed with local entertainment company Funtopia, twirling fire and dancing alongside.


What motivated you to sign up for Breakthrough last year?

I didn't sign up to do fire dancing in the beginning; the intention was to audition for dancing. When I arrived at the auditions, David, one of the Breakthrough representatives, called me by the name “fire-man” and asked me why I am not doing fire. I asked him if I could actually do that and he said yes; so that's when it hit me. Immediately, I went to get my fire material to audition with the fire and they loved it.


How much practice and rehearsal went into preparing your talent?

Not much. The most difficult part was the music. From there, I was just doing small practices and I just basically freestyled the performance with everything that I know.


Describe the planning that went into your performance. What do you think led to your win?

The plan was just to start off with a surprise using LED lights and then spin on the stage for the beginning and then I would change to the fire poi with a little Tribal beat to give it a nice scene – basically to start with small and easy moves with the LED lights and then the big and best moves with the fire poi. Then I pulled out my torch and blew fire like a dragon at the end. I gave it a big bang and I think the fire in general amazed the judges and the final big blow at the end really topped it off and that is what I feel led to my win.


What did winning feel like?

Winning felt amazing and it has given me a name on the streets (Fire-man). People really seem to love my talent and it makes me feel amazing just to see how awed people are. When they see it with their own eyes, they just can't believe it. I feel like a local celebrity; not as big as most of them but just a little – and it's a good feeling because I like to be recognized for something positive and very cool and it's a passion that I really enjoy and it has people talking. I'm not really planning to pursue this talent professionally. The intention was just to learn it and have it as a hobby and then I became the best and kind of the only fire dancer on the island and I love that; but I plan to teach others and inspire them to learn this amazing talent… but with caution.


What’s your big dream?

My big dream is to master electrical engineering in Holland and come back to St. Maarten to get myself a good job in the government so that I can give back to my community and take care of my family that needs help.


What advice would you give to teens considering competing in this year’s contest?

Don't be scared to go out there and do your best. You do not want to regret not doing something that would have amazed the judges. Go out there and own the stage!


How rewarded do you feel to have succeeded at Breakthrough?

I feel really rewarded because I was confident about my performance, and I put a real effort into it. I would encourage others by telling them that these opportunities are not always there and you should take it while it's there.


What do you think performing contests such as this mean for talented young people on the island?

Shows like this mean a lot to young talented people because you never know who you might meet there or who is watching. Doors of opportunity can be opened for you.


Ready for your chance in the spotlight? Think your talent can make you a local celebrity? Then feel free to sign up if you are between the ages of 14 and 22. Register on TelCell’s Breakthrough Facebook page.Auditions are scheduled for Saturday, August 19, at 8:00am at Philipsburg Cultural Centre.

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