Matthew Rushing, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's associate artistic director, was beaming with pride at the talent displayed at Wednesday's staging of the Plié for the Arts masterclass series.
His first time in Jamaica, for just over two hours he coached some of the island's best dancers at the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica.
"The experience has been amazing. I had only heard about Marisa [Benain] and Plié, [but] it's different being here. I feel the energy; I feel how talented and how hungry they are, and it's just inspiring. So, it took me to another level," he told the Jamaica Observer.
The masterclass series is a Creative Caribbean Project funded by the European Union's ACP EU Fund and implemented by UNESCO, Caricom, and The University of the West Indies.
This series is in alignment with the goals and objectives of Plié for the Arts — founded by Marisa Benain — which is to provide dance development, training, and international exposure to dancers in Jamaica and throughout the region.
Rushing believes that more funding should be allocated for dance to develop the nation's talents.
"It takes support. I feel Marisa is doing is doing an amazing job by bringing high-quality artistes from around the world to come here. But then, when we leave, what happens? The training, the investment still has to continue and that takes money in order to hire and bring in the best," he suggested. "Also, more exposure... the more exposure these young people have, the broader their idea of what they can be," he said.
Meanwhile, Benain noted that her initiative is geared towards exposing local and regional dancers to well-learned international professionals who can help to foster growth.
"The mission of Plié for the Arts has always been to provide the best possible international exposure and training to Caribbean dancers, as such we have made a concerted effort to develop global strategic partnerships with dancers and dance organisations who offer the best in those areas," she told the Observer.
She added: "Having the dance supervisor for Disney's the Lion King, the most successful musical in the world, Celise Hicks, the associate artistic director for one of the most iconic dance companies in the world, Alvin Ailey American Dance, Matthew Rushing, and to end with the dean and director of dance for Juilliard is an ambitious undertaking, but is certainly in line with our goals and objectives at Plié."
Benain, who is also an attorney-at-law added that she has high hopes for the future of local dancers.
"What we expect is to strengthen the mindset of the dancers and encourage them to dream big and know that the best in the world also believe in their talent. A more specific long-term goal is to facilitate exchanges, scholarships, and possibly seeing a few of them being a part of those world-class institutions. We must also thank our funders ACP-EU and partners UNESCO for making this a possibility for dancers around the region," she said.