Dancing up a storm

A love of dance, a willingness to share their time and skills, and a Hurricane called Ivan gave two teenagers from Grand Cayman the opportunity to practice their chosen career on Cayman Brac.

Fourteen-year-old Janelle Tibbetts, a student from John Gray High School, decided to share her love of dancing with children and young people on Cayman Brac while she took refuge here from the aftereffects of the storm.

With the help of Primary Art Teacher, Mrs. Susan Hundt, she set up classes at the Heritage House in North East Bay and asked her friend, Paige Walton, normally a student at St. Ignatius, to help her out.

For the last two months, while temporarily living on this island and enrolled at the Cayman Brac High School, the girls have been teaching classes to three groups. The four- to seven-year-olds and the eight- to 12-year-olds are taught modern and jazz dance.

The hip-hop class is given to teenagers with talented 10-year-old Nathan Walton, and Primary School Teacher Ms Vikki Myrie.

The girls were not in the least intimidated teaching kids older than themselves and a teacher, they claimed. For her part, Ms Myrie said that, in the dance class setting, she doesn’t think of the girls as students. ‘In here, they’re the teachers,’ she said.

The younger children were really shy when they started and the older group was self-conscious. Now they have loosened up and in the last six weeks, they have all definitely improved.

Both girls have been dancing since the age of five, and have studied ballet, modern and jazz.

They are concentrating on tap at the Susan Barnes Dance Academy.

At the end of the summer term at the Academy, the seniors organized a show, doing the choreography, the costumes, decorations and lights, which were all good experience for the future, as they are both set on teaching dance as a career.

Paige said that dance helps her express herself. ‘Whenever I get mad or nervous, I just turn up the music and choreograph a dance on the spot. When I’m dancing, I don’t think of anything else,’ she said.

Janelle claims that, when she was young, she was extremely shy except when she was dancing.

Ms Susan Barnes is the role model for both Janelle and Paige for her dancing and her personality. ‘She’s a really great person, and a friend,’ they said.

Janelle has now returned to her home on Grand Cayman and Paige will be returning in a few weeks. However, they hope to come back to the Brac to give occasional dance clinics. They believe their students will miss the classes, especially the older group, who are seen practicing hip-hop in between lessons.