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Friday 22 February 2019
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Get on your feet and dance!

Cuban dancers inspire local students to move

Jaden Forde partners with a Habanas Compas dancer to learn how to salsa.
Jaden Forde partners with a Habanas Compas dancer to learn how to salsa.

Sixteen-year-old Asia Pierre wants to be a Broadway dancer in Disney plays.

Pierre performed at the 2018 Sanfest and now wants to attend the University of the West Indies to read for a performing arts degree.

She said dancing gave her the confidence to express herself in ways she never could before.

“I have problems with my confidence level. I stutter, but when I dance I am free,” she said.

Jaden Forde, 18, wants to be a hip hop dance star.

Forde, who is enrolled at the University of the West Indies for a certificate in dance was one of five male dancers who travelled to Barbados, France and Amsterdam for an international dance competition called Hip Hop United in October last year. Out of 27 finalists they placed sixth.

Approximately 80 students, like Pierre and Horde, gathered at the Central Regional Indoor Sporting Arena, Chaguanas mid-January for a workshop by Cuban company, Habana Compas Dance.

Some of the participating schools included Barataria South Secondary School, Holy Faith Convent Couva, Morvant/ Laventille Secondary, Williamsville Secondary and Marabella Secondary School.

Students pose with Cuban dance group Habanas Compas following a whorkshop done at the Central Regional Indoor Sporting Centre.
PHOTOS BY RACHAEL ESPINET

This workshop was part of the third instalment of the Trinidad and Tobago – Cuba Cultural Exchange Programme.

The programme began in 2015 when pan students from Success/Laventille Secondary School were invited by the Cuban Institute of Music to visit their country.

Those 23 students, who were members of Success Stars Pan Sounds, spent nine days learning about Cuban culture.

In 2017, Trinidad hosted El Conjunto Folkorico Nacional de Cuba, a folk dance group from Cuba. That group held workshops and performances.

Project co-ordinator Nicholas Cumberbatch praised the way Cubans incorporate arts into their education and hopes art could be engage more in local schools.

"The Cubans have a different approach to arts and culture. It originated from their revolution. They deal with education holistically. We need to work at incorporating arts as part of the education package," Cumberbatch said.

Similarly, Habana Compas Dance was on a tight schedule touring and performing at different parts of the country.

From left Antonio Waithe, Asia Pierre and Okeyra Job, students of San Juan South Secondary School at the workshop for the Habanas Compas dance company.

Established in 2004, the Habana Compas Dance crew is an award winning dance company that merges Spanish dances and Afro-Cuban rhythms with percussion instruments leading their dances.

The students were treated to a performance by the dance company and a historical discussion about Cuban folk dancing. Instructed by Renyer Bacallo and Alejandro Oviedo Sierra, the group warmed up, were taught the standard eight step dance and then divided into males and females to pair up to salsa.

As there were more girls than boys, the accompanying dance teachers, members of Habanas Compas Dance joined the workshop. Some girls danced with other girls, and other girls led themselves as they learned the moves.

Bacallo told the shy boys, “Men don’t be bashful. Come close to the ladies.”

After the workshop, Sunday Newsday spoke to a few students about their experience. While all of them were dance students in some form, some had deep aspirations of becoming dancers and appreciated the chance to work with the professionals. Makela Edwards from Holy Faith Convent, Couva said before the workshop she wasn’t interested in Latin dancing at all. She preferred contemporary dancing and folk dancing. But when exposed to Habanas Compas Dance, she realised that there were similarities between the Cuban folk dancing and the moves she loved.

The Cuban dancers facilitated workshops with secondary and tertiary students as well as Best Village performers. They visited Success/Laventille Secondary to perform specially for that school and facilitate Spanish, dance and percussion workshops.
Habana Compas Dance also received lessons in Kathak dance from Best Village dancers.
They also visited the Invaders panyard and attempted to play the pan.

 

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