The Spirit of the Caribbean Youth by Shola K. Roberts 

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.

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

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.


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