{13} dans la danse: learning from a master

Recently I was given the opportunity to be part of an Independence Day production at a hotel in Montego Bay that would give me the chance to be choreographed by L’Antoinette Stines of L’Acadco acclaim. I’ve heard the stories. I’ve seen a L’Acadco show. To say I was over the moon would have been an understatement. I was flipping ecstatic. It’s a golden opportunity, and frankly a one-in-a-thousand chance, especially since I live in Montego Bay where technically trained dance teachers are few and far between and Kingston dance classes are unbelievably expensive. I’m currently rehearsing two dances, a Kumina piece choreographed by Dr. Stines and an African piece by a dancer/drummer whose last name I don’t know but whom everyone simply calls Aaron. They are both fantastic, so experienced and willing to help and teach that so far, after only three days, I can’t imagine dancing anywhere else.

I’m being pushed to my limit, even though somehow I manage to avoid the cussing out that everyone gets regularly (I was absent from one or two rehearsals), and even though I’m not a natural at folk dance with live drumming I’m learning. And I feel like I’m being trained, which is something I’ve hankered after for years now.

Dr. Stines’ teaching style is somewhat unorthodox, but I consider it completely natural for a dance teacher. There is a lot of yelling and cussing and fits of temper when things aren’t being done right, which is understandable because it’s her choreography; we can’t go on stage and do utter foolishness and say she that’s what she taught us. She wants everyone to be dancing at the same level, because the weakest dancer is always the one who has all the attention. Sometimes I feel like that might be me, because I don’t have a natural rhythm for Jamaican folk dance (which is absolutely beautiful and I recommend you Youtube some Kumina pieces by Rex Nettleford/NDTC) but at the same time, she’s not yelling at me to get off her stage, so I figure I must be doing something right.

It’s hard to believe it’s only been three days when I’ve gone through so much emotional and physical overhaul. In the first two days, I couldn’t catch anything and the hotel’s entertainment staff had already learnt the choreography (my cousin and I got there about two days after they’d started), so I was way behind. And then when my cousin (who has quite a bit of technical training) started getting lead roles I started to feel like maybe I didn’t belong there; after all, I was only there because someone called in a favour.

But I don’t think like that for very long, thank God. Part of being a dancer is finding your own well of self-confidence that doesn’t depend on an external locus, because you’re not always going to get fame or recognition even if you’re the hottest thing out there. So I bucked up, remembered my strengths (memory, if not execution) and decided that until Dr. Stines herself told me to GTFO her stage I was going to dance my pretty little feet off and learn as much as I possibly could in the process.

So far it seems to be working. I do what I’m told as best as I can and if I do get kicked out then I’ll be content with the fact that I did my best.


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