No man is an island, especially when it comes to the entertainment industry. And young dancers and choreographers Chandel Carrington, Alyssa Branker, Jamila Zahra and Annalise Seepaul are grateful that they've learned this lesson early in their creative careers. For although they are all trained and experienced in their respective genres of dance, they've found that pooling their experience and knowledge has helped to keep pushing them to the top of their game. Over the years, the four have collectively danced alongside a number of soca artistes locally, regionally and internationally, having choreographed some of the routines themselves.
In 2021 they went on tour with Aaron "Voice" St Louis on his Vibes with Voicey concert tour to several US states, taking on the roles of both dancers and choreographers. Collectively, they did the choreography for By Any Means, Woman and Out and Bad. The 2023 Carnival season is proving to be a hectic one for them, as they have been contracted to dance exclusively at the artiste's live performances.
The Caribbean woman
Carrington, 30, is a business analyst by day, an on-call Hott 93 radio announcer on weekends, but a dancer all the time. And although she is trained in quite a number of dance genres, she told WMN her forte is Caribbean style, hip hop and femme.
"I have been dancing since I was four and I love it. I started with Carol La Chapelle. Then Marcia Charles Dance Theatre where I learned folk and African dances. I then went on to the Xtreme Dance Academy where I was exposed to more new age styles."
Eventually, she said, she started teaching at Xtreme and started her own beginners choreography.
"In 2021, I started a company called Danse by SB. Scotch Bonnet is my nickname. My focus is on people who want to have fun and for the healthy aspects of it. So I choreograph routines for events like bridal showers and weddings. For me, it's all about the excitement when people learn to dance to their favourite song. I also do routines for things like employee wellness programmes. I work by request, so I get called in and adjust to the needs of my clients. It's going well so far."
Carrington said she has danced for almost every soca artiste "under the sun," among them Destra Garcia, Patrice Roberts, Erphaan Alves and Marvin "Swappi" Davis. She has been dancing with Voice for six years.
"Going on tour during the tail end of pandemic was exciting and scary at the same time. Because while the US had eased the restrictions, at home we were still very afraid. It was an adjustment, but it was very exciting.After all the online dance sessions, to dance in-person was exhilarating."
But she was only able to perform at the Miami and New York legs because of her work commitments.
For this Carnival, she said, someone else is doing the choreography and the group's focus is on more on the dancing.
"It is extremely difficult to do both so we are focussing more on the performance side because the season is hectic and we have a lot of shows.
She said one of her biggest choreography accomplishments last year was choreographing for the Angostura Chills CPL cheer girls under Edge Agency Ltd.
"We got so many compliments on the energy and dynamic moves, and from the comments we definitely were the team with the most vibes."
The Zumba queen
At just 24, Branker is a certified Zumba instructor, but she also does other dances such as folk, ballet, and step. The product specialist for wines and champagne at AS Bryden Ltd told WMN she has worked with a number of different companies to help with health and fitness programmes. Pre-covid19, she hosted Zumba classes at gyms.
I do sessions by request, with individuals or companies. I recently started my own fitness page, A-Z Fitness. The name will tell you it’s a wholesome fitness programme, covering head to toe.
Branker studied economics and Spanish at university, and is currently pursuing massage therapy and spin certification.
"The Spanish helps with my Spanish speaking clients in my Zumba classes. It makes them feel more at home."
She said choreographs all her routines for her classes and incorporates soca to give it a Trinidad and Tobago cultural flavour.
Having danced with Erphaan Alves before, she said the US tour with Voice was a great experience and opportunity to hone her skills and collaborate with like-minded creatives.
"We worked together to come up with original pieces for his songs. We are similar but have different styles, and added our unique touch to the routines. We work well together and it came naturally to all of us."
And, she said, although the they are not directly choreographing the routines for their Carnival performances, they still have some input through suggestions, some of which are used.
"We have a lot of shows coming up leading up to his main show, Vibes with Voicey, the Mecca - Carnival, on February 16.
The Golden Xers
Jamila Zahra and Annalise Seepaul are the masterminds behind Golden X Creative Studios, launched in 2022.
"We do choreography and creative concepts for players in the entertainment industry – dancers, artistes, producers, music videos, dance productions etc," Zahra told WMN.
"We take your song and create a whole dance production around it."
She said they work with other creatives – makeup artists, stylists, vidoegraphers etc – to put the productions together.
"We also extend to do dance classes and workshops. We have a big workshop coming soon, where we will teach technique and stage performance and presence, and how to have fun with it."
Zahra holds a BSc in management studies and a master’s degree in international business development and innovation. She is a brand and marketing brand co-ordinator by profession, and said this has helped with Golden X's creative projects.
"We've done two big projects so far. There is a riddim called Red Dawn that features Preedy, Allison Hinds, Lil Bits, Patrice Roberts and Ricardo Dru. And there's the Puppet Master riddim that features Yung Bredda, Lady Lava and Rane Blackman. Producer Nikholai Greene approached Golden X and, as dancers and choreographer we created two promo videos for those riddims."
Both she and Seepaul were on the Vibes with Voicey concert tour, which took them to stages in Miami, Atlanta, Washington DC, Boston/Rhode Island, and New York, and allowed them the opportunity, with Branker and Carrington, to show off their dance and choreography skills.
Zahra leans toward the hip hop, commercial and soca genres. But in terms of teaching, she said, "I can do anything but ballet."
Seepaul, 24, is a graduate of the University of TT with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in the Performing Arts with a specialisation in dance, and a focus on choreography and teaching. She has taught urban dance, which is a mixture of hip and hop and femme. But, she said, she also has a soft spot for classical Indian dance.
Following the tour, the two stayed on for three weeks in the US and attended Miami Carnival, where they were asked to put together a dance choreography for a set for Rocksteady, a female Jamaican DJ.
They have performed with and were featured in music videos alongside a number of other local and regional artistes, among them Darryl “Farmer Nappy” Henry, Nailah Blackman, Olatunji Yearwood, Damian Marvay, Nadia Batson, and Teddyson John.
They have also had their multiple spotlight moments on the International Soca Monarch stage, and Zahra had graced the stage of Machel Monday for three years.
For more information follow:
goldenera868 on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and TikTok
jimmy.ch0o on Instagram and TikTok
annalise.naomi on Instagram and TikTok