Last weekend’s three-date premiere of Dance Cayman’s show Dance Cayman was a virtual sell-out.
With standing room only on the last two nights, the two-hour shows were a colourful and vibrant celebration of the most evocative of art forms.
Staged at the University College of the Cayman Islands, each performance comprised 10 dances, meticulously choreographed by accomplished practitioners from Cayman and across the region.
The show was opened by the Cayman Drummers. The players impressed the audience with their artistry on the Tassa drums, a feat all the more impressive given that their performance followed a six week introductory workshop in Tassa drumming by two Trinidadian exponents, earlier this year.
The dances in the show, performed by the young, newly-formed company, showcased many of the pieces a selection of which will be staged when the troupe debuts at next month’s Aberdeen International Youth Festival in Scotland.
Taken as a whole, the performances, by the 19-strong company, encompassed various dance styles found locally, including quadrille dancing, dancehall, modern contemporary, Latino, Calypso and soca.
The Dance Cayman show had something for everyone, it seemed, and each dance was like a colourful chapter of a book, taking the audience ever deeper into the tale. The range of styles was also echoed in the costumes and musical arrangements fashioned for each piece.
According to the shows artistic director, Henry Muttoo, the shows were staged to reflect the broad cultural mix that exemplifies modern Cayman.
‘We are now part of the global community, while trying to retain and record our own unique cultural patterns,’ he said.
‘The show reflected that and shared the philosophy of inclusion while retaining our own unique identity.’
The show stopper was in fact the last a piece in the programme titled Mas, skilfully choreographed by the Trinidadian Lois McWilliams.
Among the best received of the other pieces was the serene Once within a Time, with its contemporary dance foundation infused with classical Indian dance elements, the street inspired Jiggi Time with its Hip Hop, dancehall moves and Cayman Suite by Cayman’s leading quadrille instructor, Donna Reid.
Speaking to the Caymanian Compass after the performances, Miss Reid explained how the piece came together.
‘I had some ideas about the choreography I wanted to incorporate and then chose the music, fiddle playing by former East Ender Radley Gourzong that interpreted the celebratory mood of the piece. It all took shape from there,’ she said.
Her aimed, she added, had been to keep the legacy of quadrille alive in Cayman and to demonstrate how modern moves have their genesis in earlier dance forms.
‘I wanted to show the world something of the traditional dances (quadrilles) of earlier years. It helped balance out the more contemporary pieces,’ she explained.
Although the shows were a success; for the producers, CNCF, they were also a logistical challenge, according to the organisation’s marketing director, Roberta Bostock.
‘A project of this size is a huge undertaking involving several people making costumes, special dance items… and hours and hours of training… and as a small office we are all very hands on,’ she said.
With just a few days to go until Dance Cayman’s first overseas trip, Mrs. Bostock said that there was little time to reflect on the shows’ success.
‘The CNCF office looks a little like a thrift shop at the moment! As we speak, Mr. Muttoo is creating bird costumes for the opening parade, and is surrounded by glue guns and feathers.
‘Taking a contingent of 33 people across the Atlantic to perform 13 times in a two week period is quite a challenge. However we know the benefits for the young performers and the Cayman Islands will be great,’ she concluded.
Mrs. Bostock added that the Cayman and Trinidadian contingents will be hosting a Caribbean Night at the festival.
The shows were sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports & Culture, the Bank of Butterfield, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Walkers and the Business Solutions Technologies Group.