Dancer and writer Nicole Bain shares her experience of being a part of a Kingston on the Edge skill swap dance session on June 26, 2010.
It was designed to merely whet the appetite, but by the time “Fresh Breezes” was over, many of the participants had received more than a bellyful. The workshop, a collaboration between Kingston On The Edge, eNKompan.E and Safi Harriot, featured the instruction of Michael Holgate, Lisa Wilson, O'nielPryce, Safi Harriot, and Tamara Thomas. The inclement weather, initially of concern to the organisers, was no deterrent to the participants who turned up in their numbers at the School of Dance, Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts. They came for various reasons, some to broaden their dance skills, others out of sheer curiosity, most to take advantage of a class that promised first-rate instruction for little more than the cost of a patty! They came with various levels of training - and in some cases no training at all - but all were embraced. School of Dance lecturer and workshop facilitator Neila Ebanks expressed great pleasure at the turn-out, noting that the workshop was designed to explore the “process” of dance rather than the finished product.
The participants keep pace in Michael Holgate's Caribbean Folk session
Drummer Chris gets the dancers' blood pumping
The workshop was broken up into five 35-minute segments and ran “tag-team” style, with breaks just long enough for people to catch their breath. But the participants weren't complaining.
First up on the roster was author, actor, part-time lecturer and Artistic Director of Ashe Caribbean Performing Arts Company, Michael Holgate. After a deceptively simple warm-up, he put the group through its paces with non-stop, high-energy movement, matched by equally spirited live drumming. The pace was lively, the movements free, expressive and liberating. One of the main challenges of the morning was just keeping up with Holgate who was clearly in his element! But even if his energy and stamina were not contagious, his enthusiasm was definitely caught by the group.
All that jazz!
The energy continued with Lisa Wilson, Assistant Director of the School of Dance and founder of Arts Streams. She introduced the group to some basic jazz steps and taught them a short, fun combination. The vocabulary, drawn largely from the style of jazz made popular by famed Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse, involved steps that required coordination and rhythmicality. Indeed sharpness, syncopation, and huge doses of sass were the order of the day in this segment. By the time Wilson was finished each participant felt like he/she could audition for Broadway – well, almost.
KOTE founders Carolyn Lazarus (left) and Beatriz Pozueta (centre) join in the fun with dance facilitator Safi Harriot.
Presenter O'niel Pryce gets comfy with the barre
Greetings all massive and crew. What were you all up to last week? Watching the de-wigging of Mr. Coke maybe? Yes, I made up that word. No apologies. We absolutely need a new vocabulary to describe Jamaica’s state of affairs but we will prevail so stop shaking your heads! While I read of Dudus’s capture and reasoned (Jamaicanism: reason, verb meaning to discuss in order to gain great insight) about it with others, I also attended Kingston on the Edge (KOTE). June 18 to 26 saw the staging of the fourth annual KOTE, an urban arts festival which is based in Kingston. The concept is quite simply brilliant and one of those where you think to yourself, I wish I had come up with that one. At the same time it’s obvious too. The best ideas are like that. Obvious because Kingston, and admittedly I’m biased given that this is my town, is one place that is not at all short of artistic expression. We just talented is a shame! Much of that talent was on display for KOTE, themed this year as “Love, Art, Liberation”.
Part of the KOTE Graffiti Board
The festival represents a diversity of arts including painting, dance (and funnily enough there was pilates and yoga mixed up in this category somehow), theatre, music, and film. Events were kicked off at the lovely opening show on June 18 at Red Bones Blues Cafe. There was striking art on display and notable among these were the sculpted pieces by Keith Anthony Cousins, carvings by Abol Mason, jewellery pieces by Inansi, and paintings by Chandis of Core Insight Group. Well, notable to me as these were artists I had not been exposed to before. Believe me people, this is the fun in it: discovering new art, being touched in a different way. Heady stuff. The atmosphere was relaxed with folks chatting, wandering around viewing art and drinking. There was also a very brief fashion show displaying the jewellery of Empress Abiola. The evening ended with the music of Mojahrock and the strong and passionate singing of Phebe-Ann Henry and Germaine Blake.
This entry was written by guest blogger, Saran Hutchinson. Jamaicans are known for their love of music and dancing but how has the party experience changed given the recent events (now largely over) in Western Kingston? What now happens when the police, in a time-honoured tradition, come to "lock off the dance". Saran gives us a glimpse.
Saran Hutchinson, guest blogger
Almost two weeks after the declaration of a state of emergency, Kingstonians are still a little unsure of their right to party. Altitude, an Appleton sponsored event, is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and after a couple weeks of ‘lock down’ that seem like a lifetime, it is now time to step out again. The party is being held on Skyline Drive, in the hills of Papine located in the parish of St. Andrew. My friend and I get to the parking facility at Jamaica College, a prestigious high school for boys, at approximately 12:30 am and embark the idling shuttle bus. After waiting for about ten minutes, we’re on our way.
The bus ride is an interesting one. There are strange grunting and grinding sounds from the bus and more than one person expresses concern about the safety of the vehicle. At one point, after surviving many deep bends and hairpin turns, we arrive at a standstill and realize with horror that we are looking directly into the side of a mountain. The driver, a dark, stout fellow, in glasses which apparently serve no useful purpose, has grossly underestimated the depth of this corner. Against all odds we make it out alive and arrive at the venue.
Promotional material from Durex and Old Spice line the premises. This is a residential neighbourhood and someone comments that the party will be turned off by the police. We all have a little chuckle and join the line to enter the party. The night is still young by Kingston partying standards and there are just a few people waiting in the queue.
We get in. Appleton brand alcohol is included in the entry price and we get a couple drinks. We feel we deserve them after the bus ride. Vodka, beer, Guinness, and high end liquors are available for sale. The DJ is set up on the lawn across from the bar which is slightly above the drive-way just past the entrance. We pick a spot close to the bar and this is ours for the night. People are dressed to the hilt. Rosettes, stilettos, sequins (lots of sequins), even a few jackets and ties seem to be the order of the night. The party's promoters had urged "Dress to Impress" and that the patrons did. Admittedly, some people seem to have made an extra effort to fit snugly into their perhaps too small outfits.
It is now just after 1:00 am and the party has a nice tempo. DJ Nicco has just graduated from the compulsory oldies vibes and is now playing house music. He is in fact so into what he's doing that he doesn't see the two officers dressed in their blue fatigues, rifles over their shoulders, approaching him from behind. The patrons however, notice them from the moment of entry and intently watch as they instruct the DJ to turn off the music.
Much has been said in the local and foreign press about the difficulties which Jamaica, particularly Kingston faced, not even a week ago. The trouble seemingly burst into flames on Sunday May 23 when criminal elements began to attack a police station situated in the Western end of Kingston. However, the truth is that the problems which erupted so dramatically that day have been a long time in the making. Visitors, however, should be assured that the internal drama that Jamaicans grapple with does not affect tourists given that the inner city communities in which this violence erupted is far removed from the usual tourist spots. Even an entity like Jamaica Cultural Enterprises which takes persons to downtown Kingston to view portions of the area's rich heritage avoids areas with such high risk.
Kingston has had a long history starting in 1692 when the Port Royal earthquake hit and the undeveloped land across the water started looking attractive enough to traumatised and shaken up Port Royal residents who then made the move to King's Town. Kingston itself was shaken by a few earthquakes, the most memorable being the one in 1907 which lasted approximately 20 seconds and killed tens of thousands of people. In 1944 the large black population, descendants from slaves, finally received the right to vote and the People's National Party (PNP) won the elections beating out the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). The PNP and the JLP are still in existence and are the two parties which dominate the political landscape in Jamaica. Through our development both parties have made mistakes. Politics and violence became deeply enmeshed in the 1970s when it is said that politicians, in seeking to ensure votes, provided arms to thugs in the society to intimidate voters. In return the thugs were provided with funding. Entire neighbourhoods became loyal to one party. When the thugs discovered the drugs trade, they no longer needed to rely on politicians for funds. The political ties remained but neighbourhoods became loyal the thugs who could provide them with benefits, such as security, that the state could only provide badly. When in 2009 the United States (US) sent the extradition request for alleged drug dealer and community leader Christopher "Dudus" Coke who is based in an area that is affiliated with the Jamaica Labour Party, the Prime Minister, who is also the leader of the JLP, faced a difficult task. The violence, which ultimately saw over 70 persons killed, was the clash between the security forces who were attempting to find Coke and men paid by Mr. Coke to prevent his being taken in.
Ultimately, Jamaica will heal. The worst seems to be over and rebuilding must take place. Jamaica is a poor nation but it has always had a robust democracy. The fact is that this flare up was an important step in our development and will determine how we proceed. We will continue to ask ourselves what do we want of our politicians? How do we break the ties between criminals and our elected leaders? How do we implement proper social measures in our society to nurture the enormous potential of our young people? I think that the recent scare will set our faces even more determinedly towards working towards the best for our nation. Also, it is from difficulties such as these that Jamaica gets such a rich cultural expression. If Bob Marley didn't have "So Much Things to Say" he could never have recorded that song. If there wasn't the tough inner city experience, then "No Woman Nuh Cry" could never have been written. The country of course, as always, stands with arms wide open to welcome visitors who are interested in seeing our landscape and learning about our culture. I invite you to come and see our people and the art, dance, music, and theatre that all our troubles have inspired us to create.