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Class of 2018 & Beyond

Sunday, August 27, 2017

They are who's hot and who's next. SO opens its yearbook of the trendsetters, the tastemakers, the hard workers, and the dreamers who are anything but ordinary. They are bold, brash and bright, and making moves worth keeping tabs on.

Most Likely To Earn a Curtain Call

Renee McDonald

@therealrenimani

 

Who? Renee McDonald, Jamaican choreographer, dance teacher and final-year law student, at the Norman Manley Law School.

 

The back story... McDonald began training at the Tony Wilson School of Modern Dance in Kingston and performed with The Company Dance Theatre for 12 years, where she was rehearsal mistress for five of those years. In 2009, she switched her focus to choreography and has since, created critically acclaimed and award-winning pieces for many companies and schools, including the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), The Company Dance Theatre, L'Acadco, Dance Theatre Xaymaca and Campion College.

The current buzz... McDonald is the choreographer of Breaking Point for Ailey II, the second company of the famous Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York City.

 

The link... “I met Troy Powell, the artistic director of Ailey II, in 2015 at Arts in The Park, an event here in Jamaica, specifically geared towards the international exposure of local talent. Powell was a specially invited guest and The Company Dance Theatre had performed my 2014 piece, Divulgence. He told me that he really enjoyed the piece and that we should keep in touch. We have been friends ever since and he has been advising me and encouraging me to explore international choreography as a real career option.”

 

That call... “This year, he videocalled me via Skype and asked me if I would be interested in choreographing for their next season. Mi bawl!”

 

The piece... It's a dramatic, full-company (12 dancers), modern piece called Breaking Point. It is about the fact that sometimes there are things in life that we are desperate for; things that we will fight for until our last breath or until we are broken. Whether it is love, friendship, career goals, escaping a toxic situation or forgiveness, as humans, we are all desperate for and fighting for something and the piece explores that fight.

“I conducted an exercise with the dancers, where we anonymously shared the things we were all desperate for, and used improv to release the emotions. It was a very emotionally intense and therapeutic experience for the dancers as well as for me, and it helped the dancers to have a deeper understanding of how to communicate a concept or idea through abstract movement.

“I had three weeks to complete Breaking Point, a 21-minute new work. As a starting point, I used some of the vocabulary from Burning Yen, a 2016 piece I choreographed for L'Antoinette's Dream and once I began getting to know the dancers and being inspired by them, choreographing the rest of the piece on the spot, in the space, became a natural process.”

 

“The music is by... audiomachine. One of my favourites! It is an epic, cinematic music and the piece is very heavily dependent on it. I want the audience to see the music.

 

“I had an absolutely incredible experience... The dancers are so talented and humble. They truly did everything to bring my vision to life. There was always such a positive energy in the space and everyone associated with the company was a true pleasure to work with. Taylor Barnett, my costume designer, had the costumes designed and made before my piece was even done and my amazing lighting designer, Brandon Stirling Baker, has a beautiful vision for the piece.

A major high point for me was when Tony Wilson came to visit my rehearsal. It was so special to me because Wilson, the founder of The Company Dance Theatre, has trained me since I was seven years old and my style is so heavily influenced by his. It was such an emotional moment for me to have him there supporting me.

I was also constantly getting messages and calls from friends, family and supporters here in Jamaica. It means so much to me that they are proud of me and that I am inspiring others.

This is one of the most memorable moments of my life. I am so grateful to Troy Powell for believing in me, trusting me with his company and supporting me every step of the way.”

 

SAVE THE DATE: Breaking Point premieres at the first stop on the Ailey II tour on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at Towson University in Towson, Maryland. Further information on times, location and tickets are available at alvinailey.org.