A report by Janelle De Souza for Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday.
Founded by Marcia Moze in January 1957, the Caribbean School of Dancing Ltd (CSD) is celebrating it’s 60th anniversary this year.
As a gift to the school, its alumni association came together to put on a show with the revenue going directly to the school.
Bridgette Wilson, 31, principal of CSD said before she became principal on October 2 she contacted the rest of CSD’s Alumni Association, Lisa Beharry, Shari Rhyner, Nicola Johnston, Cretia Lewis, and Katherine Carrera to find out if they were interested in putting on a show.
“We’ve been in this building since 1972 and it needs a lot of work, so all proceeds would go to fixing this very old building.”
She said many former students such as Heather Henderson-Gordon, Noble Douglas, and Sonja Dumas kept dance moving forward locally.
“We have a lot of alumni who have made it internationally, either dancing with big companies or helping run notable dance companies. But in my opinion, they have constantly been recognised by the school and by the country but we don’t always pay attention to the people who have graduated and are doing something to help the local dance community.”
The association decided to highlight some of these local contributors in the show titled Celebrating 60 Years. The show will include ballet, tap, and a mix of contemporary/ modern dance performed by alumni, senior members of the of the school, and Metamorphosis Dance Company. The performances will be choreographed by Cretia Lewis, LaShaun Prescott, Jillene Forde, Aviance Bain, Dumas, and Wilson.
“Different people are bringing the creative style they have perfected over their years… I don’t think anybody who has come out of Trinidad does anything that does not have a Caribbean flavour to it.”
The show is scheduled for November 25 and 26 at The Little Carib Theatre, starting at 7.30 pm. On the first evening there will be a gala opening with a brief awards ceremony paying tribute to the teachers who dedicated their careers to the school, and a post-performance reception.
“We just wanted to recognise them and thank all the people who have been with the school for so long.
We want to show them that we do appreciate what they have done for the school and make them a little more confident that we are capable of running the school for 60 more years.”
Among those to be recognised are Patricia Roe, who recently retired after 50 years at CSD; Joanne Decle, outgoing principal and the school’s first ballet teacher who had been with CSD for 45 years; and the school’s continued production of people who go on to have successful careers in dance. Wilson said the school had gone through several challenges and changes over the years, including the death of former principal, Claudia Applewhaite, and the school’s boutique owner.
Wilson recalled the time a friend told her that her parents were wasting money to send her to study dance when she decided she wanted to pursue it at tertiary level.
“Seeing that so many of us have gone through that attitude of other people telling us what we can not do, I want to say it is possible. You just have to be very committed and very determined because it is both physically and emotionally exhausting. But it is extremely fulfilling and a great feeling when you when you see the results.”
One of these results was becoming the principal of CSD, which was a goal of hers, which at the time was much further in her future.
Wilson said she started dancing with the CSD in “nursery school” and, when she got older, continued on to Metamorphosis. She left TT in 2005 to pursue a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance at York University in Toronto, and on her return she became involved in teaching and choreographing with Metamorphosis.
In 2016, she went to London to do her Masters of Arts in Choreography at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and returned to her position of rehearsals director of Metamorphosis in September.
She said all the teachers at the school had always been supportive and encouraging of her career, but she did not think any of them wanted the responsibility when former principal Applewhaite passed away, so she offered her services. Referring to dance in TT, she said the local the dance community was trying different ways to reach beyond the usual audience, including outreach programmes and workshops.
“I would like to see the National Dance Association help more in terms of how we as a group of dancers get into other communities to get them more involved in dance, possibly giving free workshops or offering scholarships to talented persons who can’t afford to attend dance schools.”
She said although dance had come a long way in the years she had been part of the community, she still believes it has a long way to go. She said the dance community needs to continue to work together to make a bigger impact on the country.