My Jamaica, my Dance: JDU 2014

Jamaica Dance Umbrella happened this weekend! My heart goes out to all the dance lovers who missed it; it was truly a spectacular occasion.

JDU is an annual production by the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts that was created six years ago to celebrate dance as an extension of theatre. It brings together dancers from all over the Caribbean and the wider world.

Starting on Thursday evening with a cocktail launch (I got to dress up and act fancy!), the showcase of dance theatre paid homage to stalwarts of Jamaican dance Patsy Ricketts and Clive Thompson (‘stalwarts’ is kind of a buzzword now).

It was a lovely beginning, made all the sweeter by dancers from our own National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) and the Guadeloupe company Myriam Soulange. Additional performances by Tribe Sankofa helped to round the evening out. Many thanks to the French Ambassador to Jamaica Madame Ginette de Matha for her second year supporting the dance festival.

The opening night of the 3-day event saw performances by (locally) the University Dance Society, NDTC, ArabesK Dance Collective and Movements as well as Ashani Dances from Seattle. The pieces were phenomenal, with breathtaking choreography and (for the most part) flawless execution.

I have to assume that Saturday and Sunday nights followed the same pattern of awe-inspiring dance because I didn’t get to see them. Sad face. I have no doubt, however, that L’Acadco, Quilt Performing Arts Company and the Company Dance Theatre brought their all to the performance space as they usually do, finishing off the 2014 installment of Jamaica Dance Umbrella with characteristic flair.

We are only the messengers, bringing you the gift of yourselves.
-Clive Thompson (on accepting his award for significant contributions to dance in Jamaica)

All pictures credited to Maya Wilkinson and the PSCCA.

Bricolage VII




Bricolage 7: a Reflection

Sunday evening was my company’s dance show. I’m sorry you missed it, but I did warn you.

The journey to staging the seventh installation of Bricolage was a special one. I had only just joined arabesK Dance Collective around March this year whereas most of the members had been there for a while. I jumped straight into learning choreography and enjoyed meeting the multitude of new friends. There is something to be said for finding the right fit with a dance company, like finding the right fit with jazz shoes: when it’s good, it’s great.

We spent the ensuing months getting to know choreography and each other, coping with our crazy/wonderful artistic director’s tendency to start and finish a dance in the same day, learning our strengths, and shoring up our weaknesses. It was a work-in-progress, and we grew together.

Time passed. Issues cropped up and were dealt with, or fretted over. We cried, we laughed, we learned to breathe. We made sacrifices and in between we found moments to shine, feeding off each others’ energy through the sweat and frustration. It is humbling and gratifying to be a part of this close-knit bunch of wildly different people, all here for various reasons, but who are all determined to show up and try.

Our once a week rehearsals weren’t ideal, but we played the hand we were given without losing. Time not spent rehearsing was spent bonding, or in deep discussion about some aspect of performance. It was always time well spent.

So of course our production, with all its flaws and foibles, was a crowning achievement. And as our artistic director beamed with bashful pride in the heat of the stage lights, I reflected that we had really struggled though challenges and broken out of the confines of our day-to-day existence to give this moment of our lives to this bricolage. Her bricolage. Our bricolage.

And I’m looking forward to doing it all again.

For those who like dance (and those who like me): Bricolage 7

For all you patrons of the arts out there who happen to be in Kingston – or who will happen to be in Kingston in November – arabesK Dance Collective will be hosting their season on Sunday, November 17 at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts (UWI, Mona) at 6PM.

It is aptly titled Bricolage (from the French le bricolage) which means: 

Bricolage (n): the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process

It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. Kyisha Patterson (artistic director) is a brilliantly inventive choreographer, and she constantly pushes her dancers beyond our boundaries. The result is a collection of choreographic works of unparalleled spirit and touching emotion.

I know November is the month of dance seasons, but all the other shows cost more. Really, you’d be saving a fortune just coming to see us dance. Because of course you were already planning to support the Arts. Weren’t you?

If you weren’t, come anyway.

Bricolage 7

  • Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts
  • Sunday, November 17
  • 6 PM
  • $1000 per ticket

The Girl Who Bit Off More Than She Could Chew

It’s kind of crazy here right now.

I’m on the otorhinolaryngology rotation that’s paired with dermatology (two courses, one student – whoo), and I’m also assisting our Centre for HIV/AIDS Research Education and Services (CHARES) with some research with HTLV-1/HIV co-infection and I’m in the middle of rehearsal for Jamaica’s Independence grand gala.

Talk about a full plate.

It’s all fun (except the school part), but it’s all so draining. Every day is a full day. There are nights I don’t get home til 11, have rounds the next morning at 8 and homework that needs to be read.

Who am I kidding? No homework is being done. I’m not one of those “on top of it all” medical students who seem to find time to read amidst a plethora of co-curricular activities. I am a “put it off til exams” med student who reads the lecture notes really quickly while the consultant is talking so I get to nod along in quasi-understanding. That’s my tried and true tactic.

Meanwhile, I’m rekindling my love for dance and my hatred of large, open spaces (and crowds) by rehearsing for a national event involving 500 dancers. From 3 til 7 every day I am dancing my heart and soul out on a ginormous field. You think it’s easy to cover ground that size? Fancy footwork gets converted to flat out running just so you can reach your designated space in time to start the routine. The director’s on the mic in the grandstand giving these obscure orders (it’s easier to just run where you’re told, no questions asked), and the 5-foot-likkle-bit choreographer tells you to watch her demonstration in the middle of the crowded field. For the record, I am not a tall person.

Then from 8 til 10, I’m with the major companies on the island learning intricate choreography (who am I kidding? it’s old school dancehall) and having my endurance challenged all over again. There’s my dance company tired from the four hour trial on the fields, dancing alongside people fresh from home. And you better believe we look good. Go team.

Meanwhile, meanwhile I keep trying to find pockets of time to go through dockets and extract data for CHARES, which is mind-numbing work that I am peculiarly drawn to. Why would anyone in their right mind enjoy poring over badly-written old notes for hours on end, picking out and recording minutiae? Maybe I’m just not in my right mind.

Which makes sense. Because any sane person would have gone crazy by now.

Calendar: April 11- Lester Horton Technique class by Lion King cast member David Blake at NDTC Studio

If I wasn’t so utterly terrified of the Horton technique, then I would be all over this (it is NOT for lazy dancers like me).

Also the fact that my Emergency Medicine rotation starts around that time.

DANCE Jamaica

Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 6:30pm until 8:30pm head to the NDTC Studio. 4 Tom Redcam Avenue , Kingston, Jamaica  International dancer, choreographer and teacher David Blake currently of The Lion King, London cast will be conducting a 2hr Horton Technique Master Class at the NDTC studio for intermediate to advanced dancers focusing on the way the technique is used for training and strengthening the body in modern and contemporary dance.

The Lester Horton Technique provides the fundamental tools needed in dance training for both professional and pre professional dancers. It helps to strengthen and increase the expressive range of the body through a series of exercises and movement vocabulary with varying tempos, rhythmical patterns and dynamic accents.    Cost: JMD$ 800.00  More for info contact:

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Remember that unnamed dance show? Yeah, it has a name now.

Interfusion: the Elements of Creativity

This evening will be the second night of the University Dance Society’s 42nd Season of Dance. I hope I got that number right. You know how sensitive we women are about our ages.

From the inside, it’s a fantastic show. I look around at all the dancers and choreographers I am privileged to work with, say hello to, be in the same room as (that’s you, Dr. Stines. And I can’t forget KYISHA PATTERSON. Have to big her up because that’s how we roll. Yo.) and it just takes my breath away. I know that when I was back in Montego Bay, all I talked about was joining UDS as soon as I arrived in Mona, but actually being here is so much better than the hype I was building up in my head.

Of course, a lot of it is the rush of just being on the stage again. The last time I performed (like really performed) was the time I sprained my ankle. That was more than a year ago. I didn’t even realize it had been so long. And my body is itching to get back out there and dance.  I love that UDS is affording me the opportunity to do that with this bunch of super talented people.

Anyway, enough about my mushy feelings.

I’m encouraging anyone who’s in the Kingston and St. Andrew area this weekend to come out and watch (me, haha). I expect that by now most of the tickets will have been sold out, but you never know. It promises to be an amazing show: we’ve got creative choreographers and really enthusiastic dancers and it’s definitely worth your time (and money).


  • Friday at 7PM
  • Saturday at 7PM
  • Sunday at I’m not sure what time, but I’ll get back to you.

Tickets are $1000JMD presold and $1200 at the gate, and it’s at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts on the University of the West Indies, Mona campus.

Just in case you’re interested ;)

Life Lesson #315: Honouring commitments

You know that feeling you get when someone makes a promise to you and then breaks it? It sucks, doesn’t it? And yet we keep doing it to other people.

During preparation for the unnamed dance show I’ve been intensely rehearsing for, there’s been a couple dancers who went AWOL after being selected for pieces, as well as dancers who no longer want to be in pieces they’ve been rehearsing. That’s just not right. You made a commitment when you showed up for auditions; you can’t default without an explanation and you certainly can’t default at this late stage.

I used to do this kind of thing all the time, I’ve been there. I’d say yes to everything at first and then as time went and things really got hectic, I’d have to drop something at the last minute. I’d feel awful, and whoever I was letting down would usually be pissed. It’s a habit I’ve been trying to break, with some success.

The thing is, that kind of behaviour doesn’t do anyone any good. It makes you look bad and it totally erodes your integrity. People stop trusting your words because your actions are saying the opposite. And then you get the reputation of a flaker when you could have gotten the reputation of a responsible, reliable person just by saying no.

This is as much a reminder to myself as anything else.

Saying no doens’t necessarily mean you don’t want to, it just means you can’t right now. Know your limits before you agree to anything so you don’t end up disappointing people or killing yourself while trying not to disappoint people.

Just say no.

Man shall not live by cornbread alone (but a girl can try)

I’m sick.

It’s not even the over-in-two-days sneezy head cold kind of sick. I have aches and pains manifesting themselves out of thin air and taking up residence in my joints and sinuses. I have a constant headache, no appetite and a cough that would make a smoker wince. My nose has gone bipolar: alternately weepy and obstinate with no perceivable impetus.

I’m sick and I hate it.

But it’s my fault. I’ve been stretching myself too thin and not eating properly enough to compensate. Learn from my mistakes, you guys.

In addition to classes twice a day at the hospital, I’m dancing six hours every Saturday (four of them straight) with two more hours on Sunday; I’ve been volunteering three hours a week at the Office of Special Student Services (reading aloud to visually impaired students/walking with them around campus); I’ve been trying (finally succeeded on Tuesday) to volunteer at the West Indian Medical Journal (proofreading and editing!); and for the last week I’ve been staying out ’til 1AM helping some students prepare for a dance competition (Yes, choreographing. But they didn’t place. You lose some, you lose some).

All this running up and down (as my grandmother would say) has placed greater demands on my body than I have been supplying. You can’t expect to eat nothing but cornbread and cheese for a whole week and stay healthy, Robyn. My mother is appalled at the way I have been treating myself.

Kids, when you leave home for the first time the most important lesson to learn is how to not get sick. Because your mother isn’t there to look after you and it’s a cold, cold world. No, really, it’s a cold, cold – crap.

I think I’m getting a fever.

Not Your Average Bucket List

The same choreographer from my previous post is all about process. She gave each of us a bucket and told us to write our personal struggle(s) on a sheet of paper and place it in the bucket. Then she had us move towards the bucket like we were moving through our struggle. And then move towards it like we were halfway through our struggle. And finally to run towards it like we were free of that struggle. It ended up being a really emotional rehearsal that raised some personal questions from me. Like, why do I get upset so easily? and, do I really want to make myself this vulnerable?

I think I’m going to find the answer to these questions some time within the next month, because this process? It’s all about opening up and dealing with my issues, while I’m usually more of a sweep it under the rug kind of person. Yes, I realize how unhealthy that is. Maybe by the end of this dance about dealing with struggles and leaving them behind, I’ll have dealt with my struggles (relationships, guilt, insecurity) and left them behind.

Maybe I can do like this girl:

image not mine.