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Performing arts vital, say organisers

Ginny Masters, event and office administrator, and Nancy Smith, programme director discuss The Bermuda Festival 2017 (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The performing arts are more than simple entertainment, according to organisers of the 2017 Bermuda Festival.

Speaking to the Hamilton Rotary Club this week, Ginny Masters, event administrator, described the arts as the soul of society and a key ingredient in education.

“I would expect we would all find it difficult to imagine our world without art, whether visual or the performing arts. Art is all around and is a reflection of society, some would say art reflects the soul of a society.

“The arts can be considered by some to be the ‘soft and fluffy stuff’ that is nice to have and is appreciated by a small group of the great and the good. However, we in the Festival Office suggest that view is a rather narrow one and that art — and particularly the performing arts — are important to our quality of life and are valuable parts of a well-rounded education.”

She noted studies have linked the performing arts to other valuable skills, such as learning a musical instrument, having a positive effect on maths, language and science skills.

Meanwhile, involvement in the performing arts has been shown to help improve self esteem and has shown the tendency of reducing the use of illicit substances in adolescents.

“And it’s not all for youth,” she added. “Studies have shown the health benefits of dance to seniors. If the shoe fits, dance in it.”

Ms Masters noted the long list of performances scheduled for this year’s festival, including live music, dance performances and theatrical productions.

However, she said hosting such a festival brings several challenges and a financial burden.

“Ticket sales cover less than 50 per cent of total costs, and we are living in an era in which regulation and the costs of compliance only ever move in one direction,” she said.

Nancy Smith, programming director for the Bermuda Festival, noted the festival’s outreach programme, which offers Bermudian students a first person look at world-class performers.

“Most often, artists will perform for students, interact with them and allow them to ask questions,” she said. “Students could be offered the opportunity to play an instrument, try to conduct an ensemble or join in group singing or clapping.

“We also offer small workshops or masterclasses, where students actively participating in a particular genre can receive direct benefit by interacting with professionals in the discipline. For example, this year, Jason Eddy will be conducting several acting workshops with drama students in some of our schools.

“A third type of opportunity involves students and adults working directly with artists with the aim of performing with them in the Festival. This year, we have instituted the Bermuda Festival Chorus who will be singing with Tenors Un Limited. Also we will have a group of advanced string students playing with Fandango at City Hall for one of their pieces.”

She said the programme gave some students from the island’s public, private and home schools their first exposure to the performing arts, along with access to the artists themselves to learn how they approach their craft.

“It is difficult to explain in words the benefit of these sessions to young people,” Ms Smith said. “But when you see the look in student’s eye when they receive advice from one of the artists — and follow it — to then be applauded by that artist, you realise what it means to them.

“The aim here is not to turn everyone into musicians, dancers or actors, although some have been inspired to follow careers in one of those fields.

“The aim is to help develop an appreciation for the performing arts — to inspire, educate and entertain.”