Belle Garden Belle Festival tomorrow
Friday, June 22 2012
The second annual Belle Garden Belle Festival comes off this Saturday (June 23), at the Belle Garden Recreational Facility where some 16 villages and groups are expected to delight the audience with an array of different “Belle” dances.
Festival is the brainchild of the Department of Culture in the Division of Community Development and Culture. It is held under the auspices of the Tobago Festivals Commission and the Secretary of the Division of Community Development and Culture, Tracy Davidson Celestine.
Coordinator in the Division of Community Development and Culture, Glenda-Rose Layne said the festival forms part of the thrust to keep the heritage culture alive throughout the year, to which Chief Secretary Orville London had given his blessings.
She added that apart from the productions Belle Garden would have portrayed in past heritage festivals, there was a need to look past the mere entertainment aspect and focus a bit more on the educational value of our rich culture. With this in mind, she said, research is a major factor in the “Belle Festival”.
“Belle as a cultural art form is on the CXC syllabus as one of the art forms to be studied for Theatre Arts. There are many schools in Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the Caribbean doing Theatre Arts, also a lot of cultural practitioners and students at universities are researching the Belle cultural art form,” Layne said.
According to her the Belle dance is one which can be found in most Caribbean countries, particularly in the English and French speaking islands. She refers to it as the “true Caribbean dance” even though there are many varying styles. She said some islands are more renowned for the accompanying chants that go along with the “Belle” than the actual dance itself.
In the past, TT was described as a place with a very large number of operational “Belle yards” but as the older generations passed on those “Belle yards’ became dormant or inactive, she said. This also happened in other Caribbean territories and as a result Martinique is the only place where one could find a Belle festival, Layne noted. “Belle yards” were established places/ spaces where the festivals used to be hosted.
With Tobago now featured as the only English speaking island to have such a festival, there is potential for research tourism, vacation tourism, cultural tourism and community tourism, she said. With the “Belle” on the CXC syllabus and a known area of research, greater interest for Tobago will be generated by this festival. Last year’s festival saw two groups from Trinidad and one from St Lucia attending the first show, in addition to the ten featured “Belle groups.” By comparison there are six more groups than last year; three groups from Trinidad in addition to a number of schools coming to see the Belle festival, Layne indicated, including Trinity College and a school from Tableland.
Layne said that may be in the very near future another village can be branded by creating another cultural festival like the “reel and jig festival.” Tobago, she said, is not a place with mega-infrastructure developments nor is it an industrialised island. “What we have to our advantage is our culture and that is what needs to utilised at our advantage,” she noted.
Belle is French meaning beautiful and so Belle Garden translates to beautiful garden. The dance was brought to Tobago by the French, who occupied Tobago at different times in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and whose influence is still evident in some parts of the island.
Tomorrow, a procession will commence from the Richmond Great House down to the recreational ground. The festival is not a competition, it will just be a showcasing of the belle dances such as Congo Belle, Belle Reel, and Belle Jig, all distinctly created in Tobago. Other styles of Belle include Grand Belle, Creole Belle which will be done by Les Coteaux, Belle Capa, Belle Kunt of St Lucia and Kalinda Belle.
The participating villages and groups are Belle Garden, Black Rock, Buccoo, Charlotteville, Lan’s Foumi, Les Coteaux, Mason Hall, Parlatuvier, Pembroke, Plymouth, Speyside, Itsy Bitsy, Kulture Klub, Quakettes, Rhythm Babes and Youth Quake.