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Language of the Soul

BY ANGELA PIDDUCK Sunday, April 14 2013

In 1995, dance teacher Nancy Herrera saw the need for “a stepping stone” for the talented senior dancers of the Caribbean School of Dancing who had completed the level of dance taught at the school.

She founded the Metamorphosis Dance Company to act as this “stepping stone”, the bridge for dancers who would eventually go abroad to do further studies.

Herrera’s vision has succeeded against all odds as the company produces its 18th season “Language of the Soul” at Queen’s Hall from April 25-28.

This year Herrera has returned to the format of using several choreographers for the show - Carol Yip Choy, Bridgette Wilson, Claudia Applewhaite and Juan Pablo Alba Dennis.

Last year, the company hosted its successful production of the first ever full length contemporary Caribbean ballet, “Giselle”, in collaboration with two international ballet artists, Frederic Jahn and his wife Patricia Ruanne, ballet masters and custodians of Rudolf Nureyev’s work who are based in Guadeloupe.

Jahn will return in July to lay the groundwork for the production of another full length ballet for the 2014 season, says Hererra.

For this year’s production, however, Herrera, also artistic director of the company, says “each choreographer is producing what he/she wants, speaking with their voice, in their language, coming from their souls.”

She speaks highly of two of the leading pieces in month-end’s production that is choreographed by Applewhaite - “R’ADAR BACH” danced by Shari Rhyner and “Circle Song” danced by Celine Singh.

Applewhaite, a recently retired Secondary Schoolteacher, and well-known dance practitioner, originally choreographed these two works for Fana Fraser when she auditioned for the Alvin Ailey School in New York in 2006 and for Nicola Johnson’s audition at New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida, in 2009. Both are soloists with Metamorphosis but will not be dancing this season.

Together with Bridgette Wilson, Applewhaite also created “Dream Diptych” for Rhynner, who has been principal dancer/soloist on every major international tour with the company. The other two dancers in this item are Yia Gomez and Juan Pablo Alba Dennis, both of whom have recently sat the highest level of the vocational examinations at the Royal Academy of Dancing, the Advanced 2, and are awaiting results. Alba Dennis, the first male dancer to have sat this exam in the Caribbean, was winner of the inaugural 2011 Dai Ailian Foundation Scholarship to study at the Beijing Dance Academy. Dail Ailian, who died at age 89 on February 9, 2006, was formerly Eileen Isaac from Couva and a former student of Bishop Anstey High School who became the “doyenne” of dance in China. Incidentally, the scholarship winner in 2012 is also a dancer from Metamorphosis - Anaya Reyes.

“What is of interest,” says Herrera, “is that the company gained so much from being handled by Jahn, and technically we have never had so many advanced dancers who are really dancing on top of their game and that’s part of the reason I chose these smaller pieces, to highlight solos, duets and trios in the company, which enables dancers to show their particular strength as opposed to just remaining within a corps of the full length ballet.

“Therefore the dancers themselves are happy because the work is created around their strength so that somebody who would do a more avant garde piece, will get their moment to do so.” “As artistic director, I use the ballet as a base and in this season you can see this showing that the ballet is being used more creatively, not in a traditional setting.
“For instance Carol Yip Choy has done “Everything Comes to an End”, a ballet done on point to traditional Japanese drums. “The production’s finale will be “Which Way is Up” with the whole company on stage, the result of a contemporary residency by Roderick Johnson, a Caribbean dance theatre artist from the Bahamas who came in December 2012 and who produced the work which he left for rehearsal by Bridgette Wilson, Rehearsal Director and a choreographer in her own right.”

Wilson, a former dancer with Metamorphosis, studied choreography at York University in Canada, and has returned to work with Metamorphosis in both areas.
After 18 seasons, Herrera, a graduate of London College of Dance and Drama and Bedford College, who also holds an M Phil in Cultural Studies from the University of the West Indies, says “the passion is still there to see it through to the end.”

“Apart from anything else, there is such tremendous growth in the dancers.
“I am their teacher and teach the formative training in classical ballet classes. I see them blossom and morph into dancers in what really is a graduate company of the Caribbean School of Dance.

“Some go further to dance professionally in companies abroad, and some go into careers other than dancing, as choreographers and arts administration, but once they wish to make dance their primary activity to earn their livelihood, they do not stay here, because the only opportunity to earn here is as a teacher.”

Metamorphosis presents “Language of the Soul” at Queen’s Hall from April 25-28. Tickets are available at the Caribbean School’s Office, 2a Dere Street, and at Queen’s Hall Box Office the week of the production.

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