65 and still dancing: Caribbean School celebrates dance legacy

Caribbean School of Dancing principal Bridgette Wilson with her students at the Dere Street studio in Port of Spain. - ROGER JACOB
Caribbean School of Dancing principal Bridgette Wilson with her students at the Dere Street studio in Port of Spain. - ROGER JACOB

When the Caribbean School of Dancing was founded by Marcia Mose in 1957 students were strictly taught ballet.

Over the years the school’s repertoire expanded and even more so as teachers had to get innovative during the pandemic.

Now, in its 65th year, classes include ballet, tap, jazz, creative dance, hip hop, modern, contemporary, choreography, and yoga/ pilates.

Bridgette Wilson, 36, principal of the Caribbean School of Dancing (CSD) and rehearsal director of its Metamorphosis Dance Company explained: “Since we predominantly had syllabus classes geared towards exams, when covid happened and we understood we probably wouldn’t get to do exams in 2021, we had to go back to the drawing board to see what we could do to keep the students engaged and the student motivated when there was no exam or show to work towards.

Bridgette Wilson says the Caribbean School of Dancing has created a legacy that must continue for another 65 years. - ROGER JACOB

“We decided to cut some ballet classes because doing so in your living room or outside is very challenging. So we introduced contemporary dance as well as yoga. We also started a choreography class for senior students and that has done really well.”

She felt it was a disservice not to help her students with this important class, especially if they intended to further their studies in dance. So she hired CSD alumni Terry Springer who danced in Venezuela for 20 years.

On April 1 and 2, kicking off CSD’s anniversary celebrations, the school hosted a choreography showcase featuring the work of the students. It also held a logo and slogan competition as the board wanted to engage past and current students and involve them in the re-branding the school.

The results will be released on April 25 and the winning logo and slogan will be featured on all CSD 65th anniversary merchandise which will be on sale later this year.

On that same day, the school will reopen both its studios to all their students regardless of their vaccination status for the first time since 2020.

In addition, Metamorphosis Dance Company plans to host several performances in July at Queen’s Hall in St Ann’s, its first show since 2019. The school is also trying to raise $650,000 on FundMeTnT for upgrades to the building as the past few years have seen a drastic decrease in students as parents dealt with various situations surrounding covid19.

Terry Springer, choreographer and senior teacher at the Caribbean School of Dancing. - ROGER JACOB

CSD will be celebrating its anniversary with more events until March of next year.

“I think it’s important that the school continues to exist for more than 65 years because I know the value of what it has done, not just for me but many others who have passed through the school and credits their experiences there for their success.”

CSD was started by Mose using the Royal Academy of Dance ballet syllabus system and later merged with the Joanne Decle School of Dance.

Gill Merry, a former teacher of the school from England introduced the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing syllabus which included modern, jazz and tap dancing.

Both internationally recognised bodies of dance are based in the UK and host annual exams in which both the Curepe and Port of Spain branches of the school participates.

Choreographer Terry Springer leads students in a class at the Caribbean School of Dancing. - ROGER JACOB

Wilson said there were no exams in 2021 because of the various world-wide covid19 regulations and restrictions but the exams resumed this year in a different format.

Instead of an examiner flying into TT to see the students, in March the exams of the vaccinated students who returned to the PoS studio in October 2021 were filmed and the recordings sent to the Royal Academy.

Wilson started dancing at age three or four at the school’s Curepe branch until she was 12 when her mother died. At that point she moved in with her aunt’s family and transferred to the PoS branch.

She said the dance school was there for her during that transitional stage of her life. Understanding the power of dance, the teachers cared for and supported her, and she used dance to keep herself busy and as a stress release.

She trained with the school and danced with the company until 2005 when she went to York University in Toronto, Canada to pursue a bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance.

A flyer for the 1996 recital Fantasy in Dance by the Caribbean School of Dancing. - ROGER JACOB

In those four years she was exposed to choreography and was drawn to it as it was a way for her to communicate.

“I’m not always very good with words so, for me, choreography is a good way to express how I feel about a situation or release my feelings or stress about something I may have gone through in my personal life, or things I may be having a hard time dealing with, or responses to things that are happening in society that.”

She returned to TT in 2009, taught part time at CSD as well as at Maria Regina Grade School where she developed the visual and perming arts programme, and started the school’s dance club which has since developed into a dance school.

In 2015 she began working as an assistant to the principal at CSD and applied to study choreography. Between 2009 and 2016 she had assisted many students in going abroad to study dance and wanted to do something for herself.

“I felt I was giving so much of myself to help other people do better for themselves within the dance world but I had stopped doing that for myself. I stopped exploring my options.

“So, I wanted to try something new. I applied for one programme I never thought I was good enough to do. I tried and was accepted in a one-year master’s programme in choreography at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.”

Choreographer Terry Springer teaches a class at the Caribbean School of Dancing. - ROGER JACOB

However, she did not have the funds to attend so she took a year to raise funds and apply for scholarships. During that time she was offered the position as principal but she wanted to do a master’s degree first.

She left for England in September 2016, handed in her thesis in September 2017, returned to TT and started her position as principal in October 2017, and graduated that December.

She believes the degree helped her to gain a new perspective on how to approach her craft and allowed her to let go of the style of dance she practised for years. She was also better able to help her students interested in dance, giving them a better idea of what is available internationally.

“Being a principal was something I had been interested in as a teenager and even after I returned from Canada and was teaching and becoming more involved with the students. I felt being in a leadership role in the school was something I would want to do in the future. I didn’t think it was something that would happen so early in life.”

Now that she is no longer on stage, her passion is the creation of dance and teaching. As principal, her greatest joy is connecting with students and helping them through difficult times.


"65 and still dancing: Caribbean School celebrates dance legacy"

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