13 year old dances to national victory

Michelle Liu
December 28, 2023

Shock, sheer joy, and excitement – 13-year-old Kazuma Brailsford was overwhelmed with emotions when he made history this summer at The Dance Awards in Las Vegas. Kazuma was named Junior Male Best Dancer in July, becoming the first dancer from Hawaii to win the prestigious title.

Brailsford is Hawaii's first dancer to win Junior Male Best Dancer.

The Dance Awards is widely considered the Super Bowl of dance with young, talented dancers showcasing their skills and vying for the coveted award of Best Dancer. When Kazuma was announced as the winner of the junior male division, he paced back and forth with his hand on his head in disbelief. But his exuberant face said it all – a beaming smile that radiated pure joy.

Kazuma's immediate reaction to winning a national title: disbelief and joy.

“It was just happiness in that moment,” says Kazuma. “I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Am I dreaming?’ It didn’t seem real because I’d been hoping to get that title for such a long time. When I actually got it, I was in shock. I was on cloud nine.”

Born for the stage
Dancing has always been Kazuma's passion. He was just 4 years old when he started his dance career at Hyper Squad Dance Company in Honolulu. The Hawaii Kai teen switched to Honolulu Dance Studio a few years later, where he still trains. He spends about 10 hours a week at the studio, practicing his craft.

Kazuma trains at Honolulu Dance Studio.

“When I dance,” Kazuma says, “I think about the music and that helps me with my movements. I love that satisfaction and the ability to express myself.”

While Kazuma performs most styles, his favorite is hip hop. “It’s the most funky and hyped dance style,” he says.

But the hip hop routines weren’t getting him the national title he wanted in competitions. With the help of his teacher and choreographer, he went a different route for his award-winning routine in Las Vegas.

Kazuma with his teacher and choreographer, Kent Shinomae.

“I thought that maybe if I tried something new, it would help me get closer to Best Dancer,” Kazuma explains. “And I was just curious about what contemporary was like.”

Kazuma captivated the audience and judges with his control, strength, and smooth moves, with each combination fluid and transitioning seamlessly into the next. And because he was out of his comfort zone, winning Junior Male Best Dancer for his contemporary routine meant even more to him.

Brailsford dancing at The Dance Awards.

“It helped me understand my skills as a dancer,” says Kazuma. “And it felt amazing to win and represent my home on a national stage.”

Bright spotlights in the future
Kazuma hopes to tackle the global stage next and compete in World of Dance, which is an international dance competition that focuses on urban, hip hop, and street dance. Kazuma ultimately wants to become a professional dancer and a choreographer who works with celebrities.

“I’m really happy with where I am, but I hope to keep getting better,” Kazuma says.

It’s a message he’s sending to young dancers who look up to him, especially his little brother who wants to follow in his footsteps.

Kazuma with his family shortly after winning Junior Male Best Dancer.

“Whatever you put your mind to, you can do it,” says Kazuma. “There’s no limit that’s stopping you.”

Storyteller on stage
Watch Kazuma perform his contemporary routine at The Dance Awards, as he shares his journey to being named Junior Male Best Dancer 2023:

Photos courtesy the Brailsford family

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