Local dancers get pep talk

By Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter

Monday, February 12, 2018

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Dancers who aspire to become professionals, especially on the international stage, must spend time widening their “dance vocabulary”.

This advise has come from Terk Lewis and Addison Ector, two dancers from the New York-based Complexions Contemporary Ballet who are in Jamaica to conduct dance intensives, organised by local outfit Plié for the Arts.

For Lewis, who is also setting works on local troupes The Company Dance Theatre and the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) , said he finds local practitioners a pleasure to work with, but urged them to strengthen their techniques, especially ballet.

“There is a professional standard all over the world and here in Jamaica is no exception. Even though there is a difference, I come from New York City where a professional dancer dances from 10:00 (am) to 5:00 (pm) and they get paid a salary and they're expected to be at a certain level. I honestly credit these dancers so much for being at that same level and not spending their entire day getting there. It takes a lot to come in for a couple hours and have to make up for a whole day but they have, and are exceptional dancers. I am thrilled to work with them... they are world-class,” said Lewis.

“Versatility is important. Put equal focus on all the genres of dance. Most of the time that will mean spending a little more time on ballet, modern, and the more structured styles. But I usually say to dancers — who are primarily ballet dancers — to take a hip hop class or a jazz class, everything that you do in a dance class helps you as a dancer; it doesn't matter what the genre or the style is. Keep being hungry,” he continued.

Lewis's sentiment was echoed by Ector who noted that there is a unique artistic choice here in Jamaica which is different from what Americans have. But he stressed the necessity to be versatile.

“If they want to pursue dance and move to America, definitely they would improve on their ballet technique. I'm sure that because they are so rooted in Jamaica, its heritage and style of movement that is based here, which is totally fine, there's nothing wrong with that at all, but if they want to be a versatile dancer in different genres it will definitely help you to succeed anywhere that you want to go.”

The intensives, which were held last Friday and Saturday at the NDTC Dance Studio, saw dancers coming from all over the island as well as Barbados to participate.

Head of Plié for the Arts Marisa Benain, a dancer herself, noted the deficiency in certain techniques and stated that this is the thinking behind the intensives.

“We have access to a lot of first-class dancers from the major companies in the US and Europe. It's just a matter of the timing and availability. The aim is to have workshops three or four times for the year. The aim of Plié is really for development for everyone. We are not trying to start another dance company, we want to develop dancers from everywhere — we have at least one dancer from every dance troupe, group or company that exist in Jamaica right now. There is a problem with technique and we are at the point where we are tired of hearing that there is so much raw talent and so much potential. At the end of the day, we have to do something. We all can stay here and dance among ourselves at Cross Roads, but once you take a plane, you see the difference.”

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