Honouring Virginia Alexander, 4 Decades of Dance

On Sunday 1st May, many people who appreciate art and culture gathered at the National Cultural Centre. There, the Cultural Development Foundation produced and hosted the second volume in the Cultural Icons series. This year’s production was a tribute to Virginia Alexander and four decades of dance in Saint Lucia. Virginia Alexander, or “Aunty Virgie”, spent most of her life in the art of dance and contributed immensely to the cultural society of the island. Many of Saint Lucia’s prominent dancers first attended her Les Enfants Dance Troupe.

Attracting a full house, although beginning after the advertised time, the show flowed with as much grace as the dancers. The space was decorated delicately with blue and gold. Programmes with detail about the various dancers and the project were handed out so that patrons were well informed during the show. On the first page is a message from Her Excellency Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy commending the project and at the end a message from CDF about the reasons for its work.

One of the dance numbers in progress at Sunday’s tribute.

One of the dance numbers in progress at Sunday’s tribute.

All toes were pointed and proper postures were kept during the entire performance. Weeks of hard work and lengthy practices truly showed. Choreographers included Barry George, Trevor King, Shakeena President-Beckford, Shem Heliodore, Micole Aubertin-Murray and Tania Isaac, all having roots in Saint Lucia. Costuming was sensitively planned and suited for every number, from the floating and flying effect, as for “Black Bird”, to that of minimal covering in Heliodore’s “Inner Mappings” solo. The music was also carefully chosen with live performances from drummers Che Alphonse, Augustin Compton, Jason Alcide, Joseph Jean and Niger Nestor, and from violinist Chrysyn Harp.

Throughout the production, pictures and notes of Aunty Virgie were shown on a projected screen. Some performances, like “Letter to Virgie” performed by lead choreographer Trevor King, were direct tributes and some were an exciting mixture of ancestral and folk dance with live drumming. “Way Back Jam” was one of those, and it was beautifully costumed with vibrant colours and lively skirts. There was also the pleasant appearance of Michael “Ikeal” Francis, Carlton Ismael and Anthony “Cocky” JnBaptiste in that number.

The performance by Kiraly Saint Claire and Anna-Kay Gayle of “Untitled” received the most resounding round of applause. It was an outstanding performance exhibiting talent and exceptional technique from the duo. The audience seemed to be in silent awe until the end when there was a burst of sound.

“Shadow of Bianca” was another interesting performance with videography of Darcel Frederick-Osei while Nicole St-Croix appeared on stage performing the same dance.

The finale of the show included the casting call and a small awards ceremony for those who helped bring the show to fruition, the daughter of Virginia Alexander and other dance pioneers.

The production effectively fulfilled its purpose, showing the true meaning and diversity of dance, especially in the Caribbean. Younger people like myself, who did not get to experience Virginia Alexander in her glory, left the event better informed about her and her work.

The ambience created was filled with passion, and appreciation of the art of dance and music. If you were not there then you definitely missed out on a beautiful experience.

By Claudia Eleibox

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