A tribute to the Dominica Institute for the Arts
It has been three years since this institution established for honing the talents of Dominicans in the creative, performing and visual arts was established at the Old Mill Cultural Centre at Canefield. According to the acting Chief Cultural Officer it's the first of its kind in the region to offer such varied programmes under one roof. It is also significant to note that literally hundreds have been trained. Just this year alone about 400 have gone through some sort of training at the Dominica Institute for the Arts while a little over 200 tutors have received training. Both residents and non- residents have volunteered their expertise in the fields of art, events management, choir, creative dance, drumming, guitar keyboards, music theory, steel pan, theatre arts and even costume building.
Some of the accredited tutors have been Earl Etienne , Aaron Hamilton, Alwin &Anita Bully, Pearle Christian, Clair Vital, Tyson Johnson, David Winston , Earlson Matthew, Amanda Lawrence, Petros Meaza, Roger & Tiffany Burnett, Daryl Phillip, Watmora Casey, Myriam Soulanges, Jacqueline Andre, Leandra Lander and the director of it all Mrs Athlene Douglas-Murdock. While half of these are given some sort of stipend for their services the others have literally volunteered their time.
At a certificate ceremony held last week I witnessed the performances from the junior students of ballet. They we decked in pink and white and went through some of the simple drills taught at the Institute. Where they lacked in execution, they delighted with their cuteness and charming innocence. In spite of the short period they spent on the programme, the adult class some showed signs of fluency and great balance as is required by this unique dance form. They came on stage with their black top and multi-coloured skirts. One father in the audience whose wife was part of the display at the Arawak House of Culture was quick to point out to me that most of the performers were indeed parents of the junior group, who were called to join in as they watched their young ones being trained at the Institute for the Arts. Hence they must be complimented for their encouragement and eventually their involvement.
Tyson Johnson's students displayed a piece entitled "Fan Me Soldier" which consisted of some five youths on acoustic guitar and another on a vocal solo "One pair of hands". Tutor Johnson was evident in the backdrop as he supported behind the curtains. Jahiem Nelson and Lyndon Marie were singled out in the presentation.
There was also a keyboard display featuring the theme song in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" which broke into a Reggae version of Bob Marley's "One Love" followed by a spicier Calypso version of the same song. These were followed by the creative dance students with "Shake It" and shake it they did and got the applause they deserved.
The drum kit students as well as Steel Pan tutored by David "Bob D' Winston also displayed their ability that evening. Nonetheless it was the mini Musical written by Pearle Christian which really was the highlight.
Some 30 youths, the oldest being no more that 13 graced the Arawak and thrilled the audience which consisted mainly of supporting parents to a well present musical entitled "Mangolia: the Mango Tree". Aunty Pearle really knows how to get the most of persons under her tutorship as the young boys and girls were an articulate, audible band well-coordinated in presenting the story (Sisserou Singers style) of how the female mango tree rose to a fully fledged tree nurturing and bringing joy to all. They got a rousing reception as they beamed with confidence. They wore their t-shirt on which was drawn a mango tree; they wore the appropriate head gear as well.
Before we left the Arawak we were given an appetizer of what to expect at the Jazz 'n Creole Festival as a Western Michigan University 11-piece jazz group rendered two numbers exuding professionalism and class. Rhea Olivaccé, a member of the group and niece of our Lady of Song, Ophelia, presented "Memories" a number previously performed and recorded by her aunt. It was a jazzy interpretation of the same as never heard before and the appreciative audience responded accordingly even as the saxophonist, trumpeter, and slide bone players took turns in rendering their solos.
The evening really showed up the potential of our youth and that volunteerism is still alive in some quarters as has been evident over the past three years of the Academy's existence. However what was very apparent was the lack of professionalism in sound and stage management. The preparedness of some of the young people was also found wanting in a few performances. Probably it is time we take a leaf from the maxim espoused by Pearle Christian "Anything worth doing is worth doing good!"