Bermuda dancers score big in overseas intensive
At In Motion, dancers are celebrating after a workshop at the Grier School this month.
The group travelled to Tyrone, Pennsylvania for the annual event. Six returned home with scholarships for university or intensives; all 14 were accepted into the summer dance programme at Point Park.
Lizz Pimentel, the owner and director of In Motion School of Dance, described it as an “absolutely remarkable” accomplishment.
“Growing up in the dance world here so many years ago, that you could get a scholarship with the arts was never even considered. The arts were never really super supported.
“So being able to have a good number of our dancers be able to take advantage of these summer programmes on scholarship – some partial, some full – is just huge.
“I feel so fortunate that we're able to provide that for local dancers coming from a little island. To be able to hold their own and be regarded on the same level if not a little bit better [than dancers elsewhere] is huge.”
Ashrey Cannonier, Freja Dzurus, Cashayna Grant, Annika Henderson, Ty'Esha Smith, Hannah Taylor, Nahla Woods, Aunika Dzurus, Marlena Goodwin, Lindsay Hayward, Lola Pimentel-Barker, Abby Sadeh, Avery Taylor, Anisa Walker and Rylie White, performed a piece choreographed by Malaysia DeRosa, a teacher at In Motion.
“The piece premiered at our June annual dance showcase and the choreographer’s intent was to take the audience through the journey of Black history.
“She [created a] piece that allowed a little bit of a snapshot into the culture and the struggle that the Black community has had,” Ms Pimentel said.
“It was a ten-minute piece that had three or four mini parts to it. It was telling a very big story and it was very moving. It was very, very well received.
“Philadanco, and a lot of [other well respected] companies, they were just wowed by it. They said that the way that the dancers portrayed the emotion in it through their movement and their performance quality, really told the story well in a proper respectful way. It was awesome.”
The weekend was also a chance for the dancers to take classes and workshops with “leaders in the field” such as Elisa Clark, who is affiliated with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Mark Morris Dance Group, Battleworks and other companies, and Nile Russell of Pilobolus and American Dance Festival.
“It's a good opportunity for exposure for them as local dancers because we don't get a lot of that here,” Ms Pimentel said.
Grier, an all-girls school for boarders and day students in grades seven through twelve, is not a dance school, but has a “pretty strong dance department”.
“It's outside of Philly, a little more remote, and they do this annual gala. We have students that have attended the Grier School.
“We've had a few of our dancers go through their high school and every November they bring in all these dancers – Philadanco was there; there was a representative from Battleworks, Koresh Dance company, American Dance Festival.
“So there's all these great leaders and dancers and they just come for this weekend. They come to scout dancers and see what's there.
“We've done it for the past, maybe five or six years, and every year we do it we get one or two of our dancers getting scholarships and awards and offering opportunities for them but this year we had quite a lot of them, which is quite nice.”
Her struggle, always, is how to get more boys on board.
“There's always been that stigma when it comes to dance. I think it’s always been a little bit hard to get a lot of boys into it, but every little girl sees ballerinas in children's books and things like that and I think that's where it starts, with having females more involved in dance.”
Over the past 26 years it’s been a real pleasure for her to see so many students continue dancing into adulthood.
“I've had such a great number of dancers who have gone on and pursued careers in dance or related to dance.
“We've got some physical therapists that have come out of the school, we've got two at the moment who are in professional dance companies in New York City – one is Jada Pearman who's at the Paul Taylor Dance Company and the other one is Courtney Lopes who is with Mark Morris Dance Group.”
Their success is an inspiration to present students at In Motion, many of whom are in classes taught by Ms Pearman or Ms Lopes on their visits home during the summer.
“I think dance and the arts feed a part of your soul,” Ms Pimentel said. “Once you tap into that you realise it.
“There’s so much pressure – from school and other things – and for the students, having an outlet, coming into the studio where you know there is a lot of support behind you, I think that's very appealing to a lot of people.
“It just really provides a safe space to come and explore movement.”
It’s all that most of her dancers are looking for, she realises.
“I'm not looking at every single kid that comes to the school and going, ‘Oh, they're going to be the next big dancer.’ That's not the purpose of it.
“The purpose is everybody has a place onstage, in the school, no matter what. It’s them finding that love of movement and performance and building up that confidence.
“For girls, I think it's also really important. There's a lot of societal image pressure on them.
“I think it's nice when they can just be in the studio, be themselves, do their own best – it’s about being your own best person.”
Ms Pimentel “is super proud” to be able to offer opportunities like Grier to dancers who are willing to work hard for it.
“There's a lot of hours and they're putting their all into it all day. At the end of it they’re running on fumes.”
The scholarships, which were announced on the final day, came as a wonderful surprise.
“It automatically gives them acceptance, they don't need to audition. They also get stipends – monetary scholarships to attend the programme and things like that, which is remarkable.
“We also had two students that were scouted for Pennsylvanian university dance programmes. One of them was Slippery Rock University and the other one was Shenandoah.
“So yeah, I feel super proud. Super proud to be able to offer these opportunities to local dancers.
“It's a passion of mine just wanting as many people as possible to experience how fulfilling dance has been for me on so many levels – as a student, a performer, teacher and director and all the rest of it. I just love sharing that.”