For three years Sean Leach was a strong and diligent prop in the Hutt International Boys' School First XV. In 2013, his first year in the First XV, he took the lead role in the school production. It was somewhat surprising to his teammates.
"I was on the stage dancing topless in make-up. Some of the First XV turned up and spent the whole show giggling. It was a bit awkward," Leach recalls.
In 2008 Leach confesses he was an awkward young man who struggled to "fit in."
"I grew up in Taita before the family shifted to South Auckland. We moved around a bit and finally settled in Wellington. I wasn't very happy. There were a few things going on in my personal life and I was up to a bit of mischief," he recalls.
In Year 9 at HIBS Leach witnessed a moment that was to change his life.
"Chaz Cummings, a former New Zealand's Got Talent Winner, preformed at the school. I was awe-struck. I thought he was amazing. Later Chaz became a brother and a mentor. He has invested a lot of time and effort into my life which I'll be forever grateful for," Leach says.
Leach decided to dance. It was the ideal outlet for his pent up frustration.
"When I dance it makes me feel like I can do anything. It has taught me discipline and how to express myself positively. It has allowed me to reach out to other youth who feel like they don't belong anywhere. It's a passion and drive that has changed my life and allowed me to become a better person today," Leach says.
In 2012 Leach won the National Secondary Schools' hip hop title and last year he choreographed a team from HIBS that won a bronze medal in a teams' event. He joined "The Company NZ," which is one of New Zealand's leading hip hop originations. Leach identifies The Company NZ," director Ben Uili as another "mentor" and "brother."
Every year "The Company NZ," enters teams into the National Championships. The top three teams in every division qualify for the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas. New Zealand is one of the top countries in the world and has won medals and world titles in every division. This year's event is held between August 4 and 16.
Leach is Vegas bound after his team finished third at Nationals. Leach is competing in the Megacrew division which consists of 14-40 crew members of all ages. Each performance lasts between two and four minutes and is rated 1-10 by a group of ten judges. Leach and his crew are training close to 20 hours a week to perfect their routine which will be showcased in front of 48 countries and over 3,500 competitors.
"This year will be the first year I will be able to go and compete as I made the difficult decision to not play rugby and pursue my dream of becoming a world champion dancer. This was the hardest decision I've had to make as I really enjoy rugby and was making good progress and my family has strong connections to the game and kind of expected I would play rugby," Leach says.
Leach's grandfather Kevin is a life member of Hutt Old Boys Marist and was a manager of the New Zealand Secondary Schools side. Sean's father and uncle also played for the Eagles.
In Leach's three years in the First XV, HIBS beat Rongotai College, Wellington College, Palmerston North BHS, Lindisfarne College and Rathkeale College for the first time reaching Premier One status in the capital.
"I think rugby and dance teach you similar things. They teach you about hard work, discipline, trust and brotherhood. I love rugby, but dancing is my focus at the moment," Leach says.
It will cost Leach about $6,000 to attend the World Championships. He works in the produce department at New World, Lower Hutt and is involved in several fundraising activities in a bid to reach his financial target.
The world of dance is cut throat, but can he highly lucrative. Cummings runs a leading Dance School in Sydney while former Company NZ dancers have worked for Chris Brown, Rihanna and Justin Bieber. Interestingly Julian Tocker is a dancer on Dancing with the Stars in the US. He is the son of WRFU President Murray Tocker.
Leach concludes with his favourite saying, "hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard."