William Rakena was wagging school and committing crime, when his aunty and dance turned his life around. Ahead of a Both Worlds documentary on his journey, he tells his story.
I’m 17 years of age, I live out in West Auckland, Massey. I actually didn’t think I would be formed into the person I am today. There wasn’t as much opportunity six years ago as there is now for me. I barely had anything to do but like, hang out with all my friends. I would always do whatever I wanted to do. I started wagging school when I was around 9. I used to get bullied at school but that wasn’t the only reason I didn’t go to school - sometimes I just didn’t feel like school was my thing, to be honest. None of the teachers liked me.
I started getting involved with rival gangs, I got caught up in the wrong crowd, I was fully influenced by the people that were older than me. I wanted to be a gangster. I thought the older people that started doing all of these crimes, I thought it was a way you could get your name out there and you could be cool, you could be a name known around the hood.
Luckily I didn’t get put in jail because I was underage [but] I went to the CYFs [residence] and they said, either you live with a family member or you live with foster people. I didn’t really like living with [my aunty at first]. As soon as I got taken away from my hood, I wanted to go back. Me being locked down or somewhere where I didn’t know many people - it was like my own version of jail.
But I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for my aunty, Valencia. She was one of the main reasons why I changed my ways. And also because when I first started Massey High School, I took a dance class, which I liked. As time went by some of those teachers said they saw potential in me. Dance kept me busy as. All I thought about after dance was wanting to shower and sleep, get up the next day and do it again.
I got more into Krump because it’s more the expression, the feeling behind it. Usually people would look at Krump as angry people that are doing all these aggressive movements, but when I looked more into it, for me, it was like, Krump doesn’t just have to be angry. Sometimes it can be emotional as. All the negative energy, all the things that you’re dealing with that are not going your way - for me, Krump can be a way of releasing all that negative energy through movement instead of taking it out on people, which could hurt others. Instead you can just chuck it there on the floor and no one’s hurt, but everyone - they feel what you feel.
It’s a bit weird eh [being a role model now for my old friends]. Back then, I used to look up to them, in a way, because they knew what to do - that street life. It’s kinda weird them looking up to me in a way like that, but it’s good because they’re looking up to me in a good way. I don’t look at them in a negative way. I still believe that my friends can make it out. All you need is the discipline and being taken out and away from all of that bad stuff.
I’m heading out to training right now. It’s the first time I’ve ever competed in the World Hip-Hop Championship. Dancing with, like, 40 people on stage is insane. You’ve got to organise formations, transitions, making sure you’re not hitting anyone, looking all the same.
Last night I was talking about it with my aunty. Me going over there [to the world championships in Phoenix, Arizona, USA], it didn’t really hit me. I still feel like I’m training for a gig or something. But as I was talking about it, I was like damn, it’s soon and I’m scared as, cos I don’t want to be that one person that mucks up in the set. But it’s real exciting it’s almost here. I’ll be heading over there with IDentity Dance Company and competing in the mega crews division. Our crew’s called YUNG ID. We’re from all over - Tauranga, Whangarei, West Auckland, South Auckland, North Shore.
I just hope I make my parents proud, to be honest. I just want that day to come when I can give back to my parents and my family and thank all the people that helped me get to where I am right now.
- As told to Kate Newton