Stephen Spark writes about the Little Carib Theatre Dance Company and their upcoming performance tonight (August 8, 2015) at The Tabernacle, in Powis Square, London. He also writes about the origins of the dance company, which was founded by Beryl McBurnie in the 1940s in Trinidad and Tobago:
Since it was founded by Beryl McBurnie in the 1940s, the Little Carib Theatre has been a beacon of culture specifically dance – in Trinidad & Tobago, so it is a rare treat for London to be able to see some its performers live on stage. On Saturday 8th August, the Little Carib Theatre Dance Company will be giving a show at that other beacon of Caribbean culture, The Tabernacle in Powis Square, London W11 2AY. Steelpan, drums and artistes from T&T and beyond are promised as accompaniment to a display of modern and Caribbean dance styles.
[. . .] Beryl McBurnie (1915-2000) possessed an abundance of energy, vision, wisdom and talent, plus the determination to overcome any amount of adversity. She studied and worked with dance icons such as Martha Graham and Katharine Dunham before setting up the Little Carib Theatre (LCT) in Woodbrook in 1948. The foundation stone was laid by US singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson.
The theatre – the only one of its kind in the Caribbean quickly gained a reputation for nurturing many fine talents over the years. McBurnie was far more than an impresario and a tutor, however, and her leadership was inspirational. Quoted in the Trinidad Express a couple of years ago, former LCT stalwart Hubert Bonterre said she was a role model and a philosopher: “Beryl helped us to develop values and principles of life.” Before the widespread availability of television, culture had a respected place in society, and while dance could be sensual, in the LCT it was never allowed to be vulgar.
The place of culture in society may have shifted and dance styles have certainly changed, but 67 years after the Little Carib Theatre first opened its doors, Beryl McBurnie’s legacy lives on.