Find your passion, follow it, work hard at it, and make it work for you, is the advice of Shaakir “Turbo” Griffith.
The 28-year-old is a dancer and choreographer for soca artist Machel Montano, a hip hop and dancehall dance instructor, and most recently the founder of ZeroLimits Plus entertainment company.
Originally from Belmont, Turbo worked various jobs including a cashier, a security officer, and a sales clerk. His last job was at the Port of Spain City Corporation where he had a stable salary and pension but, in December 2017 he left to dance full time.
“I want people to know you don’t have to stay at a job to make other people happy. You have to find something that you love to do, that makes you happy, and find a way to make an income from it.”
ZeroLimits Plus was started in October 2017 with four members, including his wife, Angel Romany-Walker. Now, the company has 13 members who provide hip hop, dancehall, contemporary, afro, and Latin dance services. Some group members were also trained in graphic design, project management and singing, all of which are services provided by the company.
He said last year members of the company performed at Living the Dream, Dance Against Crime and on Synergy TV, as well as on several music videos and during local stage performances for music artistes.
“I wanted them to have their own circle, to have my own dance family. It was always a dream from having dance crews from before to now. I wanted people who, not just want to dance, but who have a passion for it, who have to dance everyday, not just for a job or as a seasonal thing.”
In addition, he said he knew that many music artistes were looking for new or different dance talent and ZeroLimits Plus would be able to provide for Carnival and beyond.
Turbo started dancing after finishing secondary school at Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive School in 2006. At that time, he said passa passa was very popular so he would go to parties and clubs and admire the people dancing.
He told Sunday Newsday he loved the “vibes” generated from dancing, and the attention the male dancers would get from girls, so he went home, looked at dancehall dance routines on YouTube, practised, went back to the clubs, and started battling.
People commented on how well he danced, and because he needed to make money, he started teaching a dancehall class at Melville Memorial Girls’ AC Primary School. His students encouraged him to enter Synergy’s TT Number One Dance Crew competition so he got a few of them together and formed Alternative Dance Crew. They placed second and he realised he wanted to be better than good and he had to push himself a lot more to win competitions. “I realised I had the talent so it was time to use it and work hard. That was when my passion for dance really kicked in. I realised if you put in the work, you would reap the benefits at the end of it.”
After one performance, a man told Griffith he reminded him of the character Turbo from the 1984 movie Breakin’. Turbo had not heard of the movie but went home and watched it. He loved both the movie and its sequel and adopted the name. The movies sparked his love for hip hop dancing, so he watched other movies in the genre as well as hip hop music videos and Michael Jackson, and began studying them.
Turbo began building a good dance reputation and was asked to choreograph for several school sports. “That helped me become a choreographer because I was just a dancer. When I started to teach the students I began to understand their requirements to win a competition and as my experience grew, I improved.”
This improvement built his confidence in his skills and after a while he decided to focus more on his dance and started marketing himself as a choreographer. He also began posting videos of his classes. In late 2011 he was invited to dance with Elle NYTT, a school and performing company. Although he started as a student, he was soon teaching dancehall and later hip hop dancing at Elle. With every school show, performance on stage, and music video, he improved and became more recognisable as a dancer and choreographer. “I see how much I have grown over the years and it’s a big evolution. People always say, ‘This is going to be my year,’ but they don’t think about their days. If you don’t work as hard as you worked yesterday then you’re not going to be better today or next week. You’re just going to be doing the same thing. I want to be great so I continue to practice and push myself.”
That same year was the first time he danced with Montano.
Turbo explained that Montano needed extra dancers for a stage performance of the song Advantage and, since the owner/ director of Elle, La Shaun Prescott, used to dance for Montano, many of the company’s dancers supplement Montano’s dance crew.
Over the next three years, Turbo performed with Montano several times, and in 2014 Montano asked him to became a permanent member of Montano’s dance crew, which he eagerly accepted.
Now, in addition to teaching dancehall and hip hop classes at Elle, as well as private dance classes on evenings, he recently started teaching dance at Arima Girls’ RC Primary School and at Holy Cross College.