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.

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.