Curtain up on dance show
When Kiara Wilkinson got in a bike accident six years ago, she was sent home with a sprained knee. But when the young dancer's knee kept buckling, she sought a second opinion.
Her orthopaedic surgeon confirmed it in minutes — she had torn her ACL and would need reconstructive surgery.
“I had done May 24, United Dance Productions recital and UDP junior recital all with a torn ACL. I didn't know.
“The doctor was like, are you crazy?” Ms Wilkinson laughed
The then-teenager danced through the pain. Her constant activity threw practitioners off the scent.
“Even my physiotherapist said, you have to have torn something, but I don't think you did because you're still dancing,” she recalled.
“I got in the accident in March [and] got the surgery in August 2010. I was supposed to take nine months to a year to recover. I did the Christmas parade in November.”
“It bothers me, but it doesn't stop me. It's just a bum knee” she said, laughing at the antiquated turn of phrase.
The aspiring lawyer is anxiously awaiting tomorrow's dance show Memoirs of a Dancer at the Earl Cameron Theatre.
Her first major production, the Saturday show sold out within five hours of posting. She called this fast success “bittersweet”.
“I feel terrible because so many people are asking me for tickets,” she said.
“We didn't know the response we would get. Now we know for next year, definitely two nights or a bigger venue. It's a good problem to have.”
Ms Wilkinson made a name for herself when she and fellow UDP dancer Farah Steede started Split Personality in 2007, a Bermuda Day Parade dance group.
The two paved the way for other May 24 dancers moving away from the traditional majorettes.
“They're used to be a lot of majorettes and dancerettes, but never any full-out dance groups. We were the first,” she told Lifestyle.
In March, they discussed the idea of having their own show after the other girls begged for more.
‘We had a lot of committed dancers. We performed at the Evolution fashion show, did a lot of other little things, but it was never enough for those girls,” she said.
Along with Ms Steede and Alyssa Smith, Ms Wilkinson started “throwing around ideas”, developing their choreography from opposite sides of the Atlantic.
The three aimed for diversity. “We're the type of people who always have ideas,” she said.
“We wanted to appeal to everybody because it's going to be a mixed crowd and then we ran through the genres.
“The next thing you knew, we had about 13 dances.”
A law student at BPP University in London, Ms Wilkinson got back on June 8 and held auditions on the 9th.
The group use a wide range of music and dance styles. “We wanted each dance to have a story. We have two contemporary pieces, a theatrical piece, different styles of hip-hop, a cultural piece — we wanted to make sure it really thrived with energy. That's what captures the audience most — energy.”
The group turned it around in just ten weeks, finishing work at five before toiling it out at rehearsals until 9.
“When you're in a dance studio, you have a whole year.
“Not only do you choreograph, once everybody knows the movements you have to clean it and critique every single thing. It's the little nuances, which are perfected.”
The former Saltus student is working at local law firm Smith-Bean & Co for the summer. She will graduate from BPP in November and completed her undergraduate at Kingston University last year.
“Strict academics, as you can tell,” she laughed. The 21-year-old credits her mother, Gina Gibbons, for her work ethic, calling her strict but “very supportive”.
“She believes in balance. She believes you shouldn't be too much into one thing.”
She cites Beyoncé as a heavy influence, but added: “I learnt a lot from Suzette Harvey from United Dance Productions.
“I like the way that she pushes her dancers.
“Whether you're a great dancer or not, she pushes you and she pulls the potential out of people. She put it to us like this: If you don't take the time out to better yourself, if you can't do a split or a kick because you don't take the time out to stretch, a choreographer has to change everything for you. Make sure that you're able to do anything that someone requires of you.”
She says she carries that philosophy “100 per cent”.
“I have dancers that went from being in the backline to the frontline because it gave them confidence.
“I had somebody reach out to me a few days ago and ask if we could perform in the Labour Day parade in New York, all expenses paid,” she said. “I tell my dancers, you never know who's watching you.”
While she's set on her path to becoming a lawyer, she said dance will “always” be a part of her life. “Until my bones can't take it anymore.”