OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT VIDEO: Guyana in Rhthym

The Our Caribbean Spirit interview series takes us over to Guyana by way of the Guyana Cultural Association in Flatbush, Brooklyn. We had the honor of sitting down with Dr. Rosalind October-Edun, Asst. Cultural Director at the organisation, where we learnt of some of their work in preserving and propagating Guyanese culture.

Dr. October-Edun now a full time social work specialist, finds time to share her other expertise, dance. A former dancer with the Guyana National Dance Company, she has a wealth of knowledge in two of the country’s indigenous practices: Masquerade and Kwekwe. Watch the full interview to see clips of these dances as performed in Brooklyn, Guyana and at her masterclass with Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE at Brooklyn Studios for Dance for the Diaspora Dance Series.

Interviewer: Candace Thompson
Interviewees: Rose October-Edun
Videography by Ellen Maynard/ The Fleet
Videography+Edited by André M. Zachery
Intro music by Zane Rodulfo
Special thanks to Brooklyn Studios for Dance  and Guyana Cultural Association of New York Inc.

ABOUT THE OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT PROJECT
The signature piece for this year’s New Traditions (dance) Festival is ‘Our Caribbean Spirit’ which will engage with the various Caribbean Dance forms present throughout Brooklyn and NYC by connecting with cultural groups and organizations. The hope is to highlight the multiple ways Caribbean-ness is expressed throughout the Caribbean Diaspora, through a published interview series, video documentation and a collaborative dance process, and to continue the conversation through live performance at the New Traditions Festival 2017, June 16-18.
Get tickets at 2017.newtraditionsfestival.com

Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE, is an organizing body of dancers, choreographers and educators driven to facilitate Contemporary Caribbean Dance Performance, preserve Cultural Legacy and promote Community Engagement.

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OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT: DCW Youth Dance Company

The Spirit of the Caribbean Youth by Shola K. Roberts 

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I am very grateful to Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE for providing the space and opportunity for groups like DCC/WIADCA Youth Performing Arts Company to happen. My goals for being the Lead Artist for the DCW program have a lot to do with giving youth that have come from a Caribbean lineage, an opportunity to fuse the studies of dance, history and Caribbean culture. This provides these young people with a platform that goes beyond their learning in schools and speaks to who they are.

20170401_135555As a Grenadian raised in Brooklyn, I trained in an array of dance styles and techniques: African, Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Tap and Hip hop. Yet, Caribbean dance was still something that my spirit yearned for. As I furthered my studies I sought out these dance styles and in turn it fostered within me a great sense of pride. In essence, my goal is to instill a sense of history, knowledge and cultural pride aimed at who our students are as a people, advancing not only their work on the dance floor, but in life. I want the students to develop integrity in their work, time management and being open to process, which are needed not only as potential professional artists but also as active citizens.

There haven’t been any major challenges with DCW, but one challenge I have faced throughout the process has been working with a consistent group of dancers. We all have busy lives, so scheduling rehearsals while students are involved in other activities became a minor obstacle. One thing I can say is that the students have been very open and flexible with these limitations.

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Once I solidified this particular group of students, they have been completely dedicated. You might call this our “breakthrough moment.” These dancers are loyal and hard working, making every effort to attend rehearsals. As we prepare for the upcoming piece, most of the choreography would be born out of student reflections on our sessions together. I was inspired to create the piece based on their organic interactions while embodying the dance styles from the African diaspora: Traditional West African, Caribbean Folk, and contemporary Soca dance, taught by myself, Valerie Mcleod-Katz and Candace Thompson.

18947117_10100655367575286_104086756_oWe now have a new group – a new generation – who have been given a wealth of information, and The Creator has worked it out that they may be able to take the work to the Caribbean. Look at that!!! The possibility of this trip adds another layer to our goals of Caribbean cultural appreciation; they have an opportunity to take what they’ve learned in these past few months, apply it to the concert stage on June 16 and 18 at the New Traditions Festival and then share it with their peers in the culture that inspired the work in the first place. Their hard work and dedication to this program and their culture are paying off – and will continue to pay off as they advance in their careers and their lives. This way, learning is never one-dimensional. That’s what life is about; our experiences teach us, and we share our learnings to then inspire and help others.

Written by Shola K. Roberts
Edited by Candace Thompson
With special thanks to Medgar Evers College Preparatory School
The DCW Company premieres at New Traditions Festival 2017: Our Caribbean Spirit June 16-18.
Find out more and PURCHASE tickets: 2017.newtraditionsfestival.com

ABOUT DCW YOUTH PERFORMING ARTS COMPANY
New to our programming in 2017 is the DCC partnership with WIADCA to design a Youth Performing Arts Program educating Caribbean youth about our culture and heritage. The program is led by DCC Lead Artist, Shola Roberts, a Lincoln Center Scholar 2017 and Dance Educator at School of Integrated Learning, Valerie Mcleod-Katz, Coordinator/Artistic Director of Fine and Performing Arts at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School and Candace Thompson, Founding Director of Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE and ContempoCaribe.

OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT VIDEO: Denyse Baboolal

Trinidadian cultural activist Denyse Baboolal honors her East and West Indian heritage in the community work that she is passionate about—cultural preservation. Denyse is a native of Trinidad and transplant to New York, currently living in Florida. Her dance background is inclusive of Kathak, Chutney, and Indian Folk Dance.

In 2008 she founded Jayadevi Arts Inc. (JAI), a non- profit organization. Its mission is to “preserve, present, educate, and unite the arts and culture of Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and other parts of the Caribbean.” Read more about her work and what she thinks about ‘Our Caribbean Spirit’.

Interviewer: Candace Thompson
Interviewee: Denyse Baboolal
Videography+Edited by André M. Zachery
Intro music by Zane Rodulfo
Photos used with permission from JayaDevi’s Facebook page
Special thanks to Medgar Evers College Prep School

ABOUT THE OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT PROJECT

The signature piece for this year’s New Traditions (dance) Festival is ‘Our Caribbean Spirit’ which will engage with the various Caribbean Dance forms present throughout Brooklyn and NYC by connecting with cultural groups and organizations. The hope is to highlight the multiple ways Caribbean-ness is expressed throughout the Caribbean Diaspora, through a published interview series, video documentation and a collaborative dance process, and to continue the conversation through live performance at the New Traditions Festival 2017, June 16-18.
Get tickets at 2017.newtraditionsfestival.com

Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE, is an organizing body of dancers, choreographers and educators driven to facilitate Contemporary Caribbean Dance Performance, preserve Cultural Legacy and promote Community Engagement.

OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT: The Dancers

Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE is excited to announce the
“Our Caribbean Spirit,” performers!!

Alexandra Jean-Joseph
Ilana ‘ILLY’ Warner
Indira Warner
Clara Auguste
Dionisia Rigby
Akilah Pascal
Natasha “Ivory” Markwick

WHAT DOES OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT MEAN TO YOU?

“Our Caribbean Spirit,” is the signature piece for this year’s Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE New Traditions Festival held on June 16-18th, 2017 at Mark Morris Dance Center.  This project, currently in residency at Brooklyn Studios for Dance, explores how the movement from various island cultures tells the story of our resilience and exuberance.  The aim of the dance portion of this project, was to unite dancers of or trained in, Caribbean traditions in NYC, across the varied styles and island backgrounds. In March, Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE had an audition where 7 dancers were invited to participate in this collaborative experience.

These dancers along with DCC founder Candace Thompson, met twice a week – yanvalouing into a creative process that uplifted and interwove their embodied and collective knowledge. Movement and storytelling combined, they are creating a work that is reflective yet future bound – hence deeply rooted in a sankofic legacy. YES! With a wicked  wine of the hips, a chip of the foot, they step in between time. These performers, fiercely committed, share a common love, and passion of Caribbean dance layered with their own personal stories that make this process magical.

During one of the rehearsals we were able to sit down with the dancers and ask them about their creative experience:

Dancer, Claire Auguste from Haiti and raised in Miami, began talking about the choreographic process. She states, “I really learned about connectivity… I really appreciate that she (Candace) took something from each of us.  It was not like we were shape shifting to be what the choreographer wanted us to be, but she was kind of shifting with us and in between, [that] there was a connectivity that we met in the middle. A form of exchange. We were not losing our identity, we were gaining. This process allowed us to add to our own identities.”

Dancer, Natasha, mentions, “the fact that we were able to tell our own stories and movement and teach each other a little about each other’s culture created    unity between us, really surprised me.” Dionisia with roots in Panama, believes that this process has given her a “ sense of empowerment, not only are we able to tell our own stories. Being that this movement is very natural to me, I guess this is the first time on stage I get to be proud of where I come from and where my roots are.”

“ Connectiveness. Roots. Open Mindedness. Unity. Spiritual. Feeling.”

Dancer, Indira Warner admits, “I came into the process thinking that we were just going to be taught African caribbean movement. I did not expect us to each give a piece of ourselves; but what I did take from this is unity. This process allowed me to take advantage of my African and Caribbean culture all together, this was the first time I was able to do that and be with other dancers who understand my cultural background and my upbringing.”

From dancer, Alexander Jean-Joseph, “In recent years I have been trying to connect back to my culture and dance has allowed me to do that. My background is entirely in Haitian folklore. At first this was intimidating for me. This process has taught me to take a chance. From the beginning the space was always a safe space.”

DCC director Candace Thompson says, “ I come into rehearsal and let the moving bodies inspire me. I have been planning for this piece since last September and so I am giving myself the space to rely on that prep work while also honoring the dancers who bring their own knowledge, stories and movement.”

The group is anxiously awaiting the opportunity to share this work with the audience. Come see this heart-warming piece at Mark Morris Dance Center. Read about our other research on the Our Caribbean Spirit Blog and we invite you to purchase tickets to the show. It’s not everyday we are able to congregate in the name of togetherness.

 

Written by Brittany Williams
Edited by Candace Thompson
With special thanks to Brooklyn Studios for Dance
ABOUT THE OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT PROJECT
A published interview series, video documentation and a collaborative dance process, the conversation continues through live performance at the New Traditions Festival 2017, June 16-18.
Get tickets for New Traditions Festival HERE.

 

 

OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT: Chutney as Cultural Identity

The Spirit of Chutney: Cultural Identity Through Movement with Denyse Baboolal

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Denyse in a Classical Indian Performance

Trinidadian cultural activist Denyse Baboolal honors her East and West Indian heritage in the community work that she is passionate about—cultural preservation. Denyse Baboolal is a native of Trinidad and transplant to New York, currently living in Florida. Her dance background is inclusive of Kathak, Chutney, and Indian Folk Dance. She studied at the Nirtyanjali Dance Theatre and learned Rajdhar (a fusion dance style developed in Guyana that incorporates Kathak, nagara, and bhojpuri style to Tan Sangeet music) with the late Gora Singh at the Rajkumari Cultural Center in New York where she worked for twenty years. The Rajkumari Cultural Center is “a community-based, multi-arts organization that works to rejuvenate Indo-Caribbean cultural and artistic life to this new American community” (http://rajkumari.weebly.com/our-mission.html). Her experience at the Rajkumari Cultural Center emboldened her to continue her interest in Indo-Caribbean preservation.

In 2008 she founded Jayadevi Arts Inc. (JAI), a non- profit organization. Its mission is to “preserve, present, educate, and unite the arts and culture of Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and other parts of the Caribbean.” The name Jayadevi is derived from “Jaya Devi” which translates as “victorious goddess” in Hindu culture. Through the naming of her organization, she pays tribute to her East and West Indian culture, honoring its vitality. East Indian contribution within Caribbean culture is immense.

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JayaDevi International Dancers in their Ganges meet the Nile production.

Better known as Indo Caribbean’s, this group has a very detailed history inclusive of indentured servitude and controversy but one that is a rich expression of traditional elements such as religion, language, and celebrations. It is a creolized and syncretic culture, incorporating many of the indigenous features of the Caribbean “strengthening the Indo-[Caribbean] stake to genuine citizenhood…” (Manuel 2000, 335).

Where Yuh From?

Indo-Caribbean’s are Caribbean natives who have East Indian ancestry. Indians were brought to the Caribbean for indentured servitude in the 1900’s. After slavery was abolished in 1833, the British plantation owners recognized this as an economic travesty. Sugarcane plantations like cotton fields required a mass amount of cheap labor therefore, they created a new system of forced labor, redefining it as indentured labor. Indentured servants worked for little pay and endured hard physical labor and rigid conditions.  This migration brought some 383,000 East Indian workers to Trinidad, the British Guiana, and other areas of the West Indies.

Where Yuh Going?

Indian folk dances were birthed by the ancestors from the villages of Gujjar, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh in India. This direct lineage to India provides a sense of authenticity in terms of the cultural influences in the Caribbean due to Indian migration and indentured servitude. Indian folk dances travelled to the Caribbean on those ships. The pure traditional folk dances were then mixed with Caribbean culture, a natural synthesis ensued and the movements organically fused together creating its own culture. A prime example of this is with chutney.

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JayaDevi Dancers in flag-inspired Chutney-Soca costumes.

Chutney emerged in the 1980’s as a “loose category of lively, up-tempo Hindi-language folk songs and an accompanying dance” (Manuel 2000, 336). It was also ceremonial and a staple at Hindu weddings. Since then, it produced several iterations inclusive of Indian folk styles and African influences.  Baboolal states that “now [we’ve] merged with Latin [and] everything that came to invade Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago now has this very unique expression of chutney called chutney soca.”

“[This] is the reason why it is important to preserve [our folk dances and culture] because, with the evolution of the different generations, [there is now an infiltration] by other nontraditional elements. Now, I [will] do [my best] to keep it in this traditional form.”

Ms, Baboolal believes that in order to locate authentic chutney style, one must travel to Trinidad. You can certainly find it in Guyana and Jamaica, but there is a distinct difference in their articulation of it. You can trace its roots to Bejar, India and it’s called chati “but, it’s not the same. That is the real traditional [movement] and chutney is just the trim of that flavor.”

The Politics of Indo-Caribbean Identity

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Denyse with Rayen Kalpoe and Mala Samaroo of Baithak Gana Warriors.

It is important to note that to understand Caribbean identity on one must use the lens of colonization which created creolization and fusions of culture, language, food, religion, dance, and people. In order to decolonize one self, it is imperative that Caribbean folk “understand [themselves on their] own terms, to look through eyes unblinkered by imported theories, defin[ing] [themselves] in a language of its own invention” (Laughlin 2006). This definition must remain constant wherever they take up residence in the Americas. Baboolal speaks of the struggle to be identified and accepted in reference to being funded in South Florida where she is constantly explaining that she is an Indian from the Caribbean not from East India doing Bollywood or classical Indian dance. There seems to be no awareness of the very diverse populations from the Caribbean therefore, the “diversity checklist…for the census” needs to include the many different racial and ethnic groups such as Indo-Caribbean, Hispanic, Pacific Islanders, and Asian because “we are not these other groups of people.”

Historically, people of African descent “struggled to establish cultural identity” (Manuel 2000, 318) under the dictatorship of the colonizer. East Indians also struggled to establish their own identity “within traditionally black-dominated political and socio-cultural frameworks” (Manuel 2000, 318). Through cultural recalibration, a method that is grounded in cultural retention consisting of “reformulating their own senses of culture and identity in relation to mainstream West Indian contexts” (Manuel 200, 318) and advocating for an inclusive cultural schema that recognizes both their East Indian and West Indian Heritage, Indo-Caribbean’s can maintain their identity in transnational spaces.

Our Caribbean Spirit?

Photo from Can Dance (2)
Candace Thompson and Denyse Baboolal during the interview.

When asked her thoughts on Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE’s (DCC’s) current theme, “Our Caribbean Spirit,” she stated that “it is just about being identified. It’s a struggle for us [Indo-Caribbean’s] to be identified, accepted, and for our style to be on a mainstream level rather than [being seen as] that minority in the minority.” The work that Baboolal and JayaDevi is doing serves as an act of resistance against the historical and current systems that seek to eradicate Indo-Caribbean identity. Her mission is to preserve and promote Indo-Caribbean culture specifically here in North America where she feels that it is being threatened. She gives a heart-felt testimony:

‘[We are] losing our people. Our people are pulling to the American way. So, instead of wanting to be Caribbean, be a soca child, be an Indo-Caribbean person, they want to be an American, [or] follow the Latin way, [or] the hip-hop way. They want to be everything [other] than that what is in their DNA or what came from their ancestral heritage… I mean, if you look at the American born, the Americans who live here, the third fourth generation Americans, they’re searching for a culture. They’re searching for an identity, and they’re grabbing everyone else’s culture. But [we, Indo-Caribbean’s do] have a culture. [I ask the youth], where are you going with it? That’s the message we need to [articulate] to our youths. We need to remind them [of]who [they] are, where [they] came from and why [they] must be proud to preserve [their] culture.’

Yuh Dun Kno…

Denyse Baboolal and Jayadevi Arts Inc. is focused on establishing a sense of Indo-Caribbean identity in North American societies; ensuring that Indo-Caribbean youth recognize their rich culture; preserving traditional Indian folk dances; and bringing the hybrid form of music and dance called chutney soca to the mainstream. Her commitment to JAI’s mission of preserving, presenting, and educating is evident as she uses her love for Indo-Caribbean culture as a platform to educate and unite communities about the lineage, transgression, and evolution of Indo-Caribbean people.

Photo from Can Dance (3)

Candace Thompson of DCC with Denyse Baboolal post-interview.

Bibliography

Manuel, Peter. “Ethnic Identity, National Identity and Music in Indo-Caribbean Culture,” in
Music and the Racial Imagination, ed. Philip Bohlman and Ronald Rodano (University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 318-45.
The Rajkumari Cultural Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.

ABOUT THE OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT PROJECT
The signature piece for this year’s New Traditions (dance) Festival is ‘Our Caribbean Spirit’ which will engage with the various Caribbean Dance forms present throughout Brooklyn and NYC by connecting with cultural groups and organizations. The hope is to highlight the multiple ways Caribbean-ness is expressed throughout the Caribbean Diaspora, through a published interview series, video documentation and a collaborative dance process, and to continue the conversation through live performance at the New Traditions Festival 2017, June 16-18.
Get tickets for New Traditions Festival HERE.

Written by A’Keitha Carey
Edited by Candace Thompson
Special Thanks to Medgar Evers College Prep
Photos used with permission from JayaDevi’s Facebook page

 

OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT VIDEO: St.Lucia Folklore Association

Welcome to the Our Caribbean Spirit video platform as we continue our talks with the St.Lucia Folklore Association. Watch the interview as they inform us about St.Lucian Dance Culture in Brooklyn and what the Caribbean spirit means to them.

ABOUT THE OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT PROJECT

The signature piece for this year’s New Traditions (dance) Festival is ‘Our Caribbean Spirit’ which will engage with the various Caribbean Dance forms present throughout Brooklyn and NYC by connecting with cultural groups and organizations. The hope is to highlight the multiple ways Caribbean-ness is expressed throughout the Caribbean Diaspora, through a published interview series, video documentation and a collaborative dance process, and to continue the conversation through live performance at the New Traditions Festival 2017, June 16-18.
Get tickets for New Traditions Festival HERE.

Interviewer: Candace Thompson
Interviewees: Henith Samuel – President, Bryan Henry – Music Coordinator, John Sonson – Dance Coordinator.
Videography by Ellen Maynard, Andre Zachery
Edited by Andre Zachery
Intro music by Zane Rodulfo

Special thanks to Claudia Narcisse and 3-Legged Dog Art + Technology Center.

OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT: St.Lucia Alive in East Flatbush

St.Lucia Spirit Alive in East Flatbush.

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St.Lucia Folklore Association performing at Annual Independence Gospel Fest.

As we continue the Our Caribbean Spirit interview series, we make our way over to the St.Lucia Folklore Association. This organization, in existence for 10 years in Brooklyn, has as its mission, to promote and preserve the culture of St. Lucia, in a way that honors camaraderie and togetherness among its members. In DCC’s long courtship to engage them, we were able to see them perform at the (St.Lucia) Annual Independence Gospel Festival (pictured above), at their weekly rehearsals in East Flatbush, at a Gala Dinner hosted by the group and their meeting with us for the video interview. What stands out at all encounters, is their light heartedness and a deep appreciation for their way of life (more about that soon).

So what do they do?

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Claudia Narcisse receiving an award in her traditional dress – a douiette.

The organization performs song and dance at major events in the Northeast, presenting the rich culture of St. Lucia. The group’s members have different relationships with performance. Quite a few have serious accolades in Performing Arts in their home country – namely John SonSon and Bryan Henry – who have both studied with Frank Norville of the Island Creole Dancers and performed at the prestigious CARIFESTA representing St.Lucia. Henith Samuel, St. Lucia Folklore Association President, also hails from a line of folk practitioners being the great-nephew of Cessene, a celebrated folk queen of the island. Others have no past professional experience but nostalgia and true passion for the culture lead them to seek out these experiences in North America. The group has performed at Taste of the Caribbean Jerk Festival in Connecticut, Maryland for the Journen Kreyol Festival, and   can be seen at most celebrations for St.Lucia Independence in NYC, bringing their Lucian soul to all and sundry.

Caribbean Spirit in Process

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Mid-waltz at weekly rehearsal.

We visit their rehearsal space, a basement in East Flatbush. After greeting us, the members are discussing the piece they are about to run. The pique-waltz. The music starts, and four couples shift, move, advance and retreat to some sweet Antillean music. It’s truly been a long time since I’ve seen grown folks coupled up and dancing quite so merrily. For a moment it feels like time had stopped and these folks were completely at home, free to enjoy each twirl. The President of the association Mr. Samuel, beams in our interview that what these dances express is a sense of what village life was like, how people greeted each other, the joy and the sense of familiarity with everyone. This theme recurs on almost every encounter with them.

What is the dance culture of St. Lucia?

As explained by John SonSon, the Dance Coordinator, each rehearsal consists of teaching and practicing different traditional St.Lucian dances. These dances drawn from various traditional settings including wakes, funerals, rituals of courtship and celebration, with some being considered more ‘formal’ (their words) for occasions where people dress up to celebrate – weddings, christenings etc., and others when folks get together more ‘informally’ (again their words).

Some of these dances are (in order of mention):

  • Quadrille and its 4 figures – performed for special and formal occasions – French Ancestry
  • Pique-waltz – Another couple dance of European ancestry
  • La commette – danced at funerals/wakes – African roots
    • Pichay
    • Mazouk
    • Roule
  • Weedova –  a heel and toe dance that references the African roots
  • Moolala
  • The Scottish Polka
  • The Norwegian Polka

20170501_174826Performance at Gala Dinner on April 23, 2017.

  • The Grande Ronde
  • With the drums:
    • Broche – aggressive, risqué dance lead by women performed at Christmas
    • Bele
    • Contre en l’air and contre en bas

They prioritize dance styles in rehearsal based on the next upcoming performance and which dance can best connect and interact with the audience. The Quadrille is among the favourites for performance, along with the Norwegian (like a ring game with couples interchanging linked arms) and the Grande Ronde where the audience gets involved, usually performed after the Quadrille. For them these dance traditions highlight the history of the country, the heavy French and British influence, referring to the changing of sovereigns 7 times between each colonial power and of course their deep African roots. Each dance reinforces some aspect of this story and the corresponding values within a small island that celebrates warm interaction among its people, jokes and laughter, dance for courtship and flirtation, and genuine affection for one another.

Bryan Henry Music Coordinator confirms proudly, ‘Every time we perform, it says that St.Lucia is alive. St Lucia is away but we bring St.Lucia here to you.’

A tiny group in Brooklyn?

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All smiles after rehearsal.

The quadrille figure they rehearse that night includes an advance and retreat of lines of men and women that whisper in each other’s ear, blow kisses at each other, and/or look at each other comically. It’s enjoyable for us to watch and it seems as well for them to perform. We are offered food and drink, friends and family are there in support including kids and younger adults, and I was graciously invited to jump in to learn one of the figures (one of the pre-set formations of the Quadrille). Besides what the group does in performance, it is clear in practice, they model these very values as well.

Beyond the surface…

Besides dance and performance, the association is thinking intently about the future of the group and their role in the wider society. Mr.Samuel cites a need for even greater unity among Caribbean people to wield collective power for political and social change.

“Yes we (Caribbean Diaspora) meet each other, we go to dances, we dance and so on, that’s the fun part of it. Then we go home but we[‘re] not organized in a way that we could have an effect… if we have a real organized political force, we could move mountains… With our unique ability to express our self through dance and song we can extend that to be a political force.”

St.Lucia Folklore Association also has an affiliated youth ensemble called Children of Culture run by one of their members Mary Smith. This is their way of planning for succession and the continuance of their way of life here in Brooklyn. The group also wishes to lead workshops, create exchanges with others Caribbean groups and to welcome more members including non-St.Lucians to join them. “We don’t have a closed door policy, if you like what we do, you can join us.”

Our Caribbean Spirit

On reflecting on our time with them, if we were to infer about this idea of the Caribbean Spirit, one could say it is our desire for meaningful interaction whether in a two-step, a laugh, a spin, a wine-down, a heckle or otherwise. Dance culture like this one, keeps us honest about our desires to communicate within the Caribbean-American community. Are we prioritizing people, our people and so-called kinship over schedules, money, commutes, carnival costumes etc.? Our traditions really do have something to teach us if we slow down and pay attention.

Photo from CanDanceFitContempoCarib

Post-interview with DCC’s Candace Thompson, St. Lucia’s Folklore Association’s President – Henith Samuel, Music Coordinator – Bryan Henry and Dance Coordinator – John Sonson.

ABOUT THE OUR CARIBBEAN SPIRIT PROJECT
The signature piece for this year’s New Traditions (dance) Festival is ‘Our Caribbean Spirit’ which will engage with the various Caribbean Dance forms present throughout Brooklyn and NYC by connecting with cultural groups and organizations. The hope is to highlight the multiple ways Caribbean-ness is expressed throughout the Caribbean Diaspora, through a published interview series, video documentation and a collaborative dance process, and to continue the conversation through live performance at the New Traditions Festival 2017, June 16-18.
Get tickets for New Traditions Festival HERE.

Written by Candace Thompson
Edited by A’Keitha Carey
Special thanks to Claudia Narcisse and 3-Legged Dog Art + Technology Center.