Leading choreographer out to build dreams
Choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie has worked with everyone from Beyoncé to the Alvin Ailey Dancers, so you’d think teaching a bunch of children in Bermuda would seem dull by comparison.
However, the 40-year-old New Yorker was only too happy to teach ballet at In Motion School of Dance’s Summer Intensive programme, last week.
“A few of the students are pretty, pretty special,” he said. “I love how children don’t hide their feelings when they’re passionate about something.
“There is this energy behind their eyes when they love what they do.”
Mr Moultrie is an award-winning choreographer who has set dance routines for organisations such as the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain and the Atlanta Ballet, among others.
One of his most famous clients was Beyoncé, just before she embarked on her 2013 Mrs Carter Tour.
“She needed different choreographers, so there were a group of us,” Mr Moultrie said. “I came in and did two parts of her show. I worked with her every day for two months.
“Then, after she went on tour, I didn’t see her ever again. It was a surreal gig and it’s done. I went back to my ballet and modern world.”
The “meat and potatoes” of what he does involves teaching all over the world, at all levels.
He admitted that switching back and forth between choreographing for professionals and teaching beginners can be challenging.
“When you teach professionals, you are coaching the technique that they have built,” he said.
“With children, they haven’t arrived yet and need you because you are setting them up to be professionals.”
He felt both groups were equally demanding.
In Motion director Lizz Pimentel connected with him through a mutual acquaintance at the Grier School in Pennsylvania.
Several In Motion graduates have studied there, and Mr Moultrie has worked there as a guest instructor.
While working with students at In Motion, he taught ballet technique and form, but he also wanted to show them what it took to make it in the dance world.
“You want them to know that to do this takes hard work,” he said. “To do anything is hard work. To fail is to be human.
“We are training them that failure is not terrible as long as you took a chance. They don’t all have to leave and go on to be dancers.
“Discipline and the mental capacity that dancing takes can set them up for anything. I love being a part of that.”
He sees his role as a dream builder.
“I am hoping to leave seeds in them so that they remember me when they are 40 or 50,” he said.
Mr Moultrie said he has had to sacrifice a lot, particularly in his social life, to pursue his career.
“You end up having to be single a lot because you are travelling so much to help others,” he said.
“It feels like a calling a little. You don’t see your family so much.
“When I am home, I have to make sure I see my family. I have to make sure I stay in my nieces’ and nephews’ lives.”
He grew up in the projects in Harlem, New York.
“It was great growing up in Harlem,” he said. “We were poor, but loved. There were definitely situations that were typical of inner city life such as drugs and death, but tons of love too.
“I think inner cities don’t get that credit. The love is very high in inner cities, but you just hear about the bad stuff.”
When he was young, he loved street dancing with his friends.
Elementary schoolteacher Gwendolyn McLoud spotted his talent. The third-grade Harlem teacher was known for her passion for the performing arts, and for uplifting children.
“She would arrange musicals at her school at a very high level,” Mr Moultrie remembered. “She took me under her wing.”
Ms McLoud told his mother that as long as Mr Moultrie got good grades in school, she would pay for performing arts classes for him.
“My mother was like, ‘okay, this lady wants my child ...’,” Mr Moultrie laughed.
“But I was the last child of four, so she was like ‘go ahead, take him’. My mother didn’t know much about the arts.”
Thanks to Ms McLoud, Mr Moultrie was able to take singing, acting and ballet classes from an early age, and went on to study dance at Juilliard at 17 years old. Initially, he hated ballet.
“Ballet is very codified and very strict,” he said. “You have to be in set positions that sometimes your body just can’t do.
“You need a teacher to help you mould your body into those shapes. It was too rigid to me. I came from a rich cultural background and where there were social dances.
“Ballet was this European dance form that was foreign, but over the years I developed a respect for it and grew to enjoy it.
“It gives a really strong foundation for all the other dance genres.”
Today he tries to keep his work evenly spread out between different dance styles such as ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, and musical theatre.
“I love them all,” he said. “As soon as you get tired of one, you can move to the next genre so you can stay fresh. I have been blessed to move around and jump genre so that helps.”
Mr Moultrie left Bermuda on Saturday, but the summer dance intensive goes on until August 31, and is still receiving applicants.
Overseas teachers also include Kiesha Lalama, Jason McDole, Demetrius Tabron, Rashan Kenyatta, Youngsil Kim and Adam Cates and local teachers Keith Trott, MJ Doughty, and Nikki Willis.
•The intensive is for students ages seven to pre-professional, and the cost is $300 a week. To sign up go to the In Motion website at inmotionbda.com or call 292-761