Bèlèlesh is dance, visceral bodies and in-depth contemporary exploration of culture.
Bèlèlesh is sexy, arrogant, confrontational and …shows off even our frailty and scars of which we are proud.
” …I come from; a place that likes grandeur; it likes large gestures; it is not inhibited by flourish…” Sir D. Walcott.
And so …BEH-LEH-LESH.
As a counterpoint though, in a society where dance is often viewed as a feminine past time, this sex/ gender comes together to demonstrate skill and ability to dance and play as they explore the themes of strength, masculinity, brotherhood, sport, responsibility, commitment, death and life.
Bèlèlesh seeks to explore the fusion of the folk dance Bèlè with tones of contemporary, modern and latin dance. Skilled and experienced performers/ dance teachers – men- take the stage in a context melling bravado and attention to the many idiosyncrasies of stage, theatre, folk ritual and dance. They display the skill and talents honed throughout their careers and lives as practitioners and advocates of the various dance, art and cultural forms.
Cast of Bèlèlesh
Richard Ambroise: we know as the stage manager to the once successful Hot Couture St. Lucia Jaz & Arts Fashion show, produced for two years by Mae Wayne under the creative direction of Richard Young. Mr. Ambroise has some other not so hidden talents though. A celebrated actor, with the international reviews to back it up, he returned from Carifesta XIII held this year in Barbados where he held his own as a soloist representing at Carifesta Signal Dance event – in a solo themed Para-site, looking at the porosity of Caribbean Cultures. His work expresses a commitment to develop his art form by underscoring the St. Lucian narrative and nuances found specifically within the diaspora.
Mr. Ambroise credentials include studies throughout the Caribbean and Europe, as well as conference papers including a presentation at U.W.I open campus in St. Lucia called ‘Open spaces: bridging the gap in generations of dance in St. Lucia.’
Christopher Duncan: is a Cultural Activist, Traditional St. Lucian Folk Song Writer, Arranger, Singer and dancer. A Folk Events Manager and holder of Master Class Certification in Directing and Acting, he has over 25 years’ experience as a practitioner of traditional St. Lucian Folk Dance. He is also a founding member of the Helen Folk Dancers, former member of Les Danceurs Traditionelle De St.Lisi and former member of Island Creole Dancers.
Jaimie Forde: Began his career in the arts at the age of seven with The Helen Folk Dancers.
Despite his love of the violin, dance in all forms remained near and dear to him. He participated in several workshops organized by the Cultural development foundation based in St. Lucia.
Lance Glasgow: Latin dancer extraordinaire has been a photographer for 11 years but had been dancing way before that. In this production of Bèlèlesh he hopes to fulfill another dream, of inspiring his daughter to be the absolute best in whatever she or anyone desires to be.
BELELESH – THE RESEARCH
Although there are traces of research on St. Lucian folk forms, such as Harold Simmons anthropological study on folk dances, and a review of this work by Dr. Didicus Jules, there is still much recording and analysis to be done.
The University of the West Indies open campus symposium call for papers was one forum for the exploration and development of such work.
In 2013 Mr. Richard Ambrose presented his findings relating to the subject of record in the traditional dances at the symposium. The paper titled ‘Dancing to the Fife – A case for record in St. Lucian traditional dance’ made reference to the work of Simmons and Jules and elaborated on the further need, not just of record, but also of systematized documentation of movement, the body and music in relation to dance vocabulary.
“The existence of systems of writing and recording dance gives further credence to the exercise of recording St. Lucia’s cultural resource for preservation, development and future use…”
Bèlèlesh, stresses on the resource of St. Lucian culture, emphasizing the necessity of this in preliminary interviews with folk icons. Augustus ‘Doudou’ Joseph was one such cultural resource. Celebrated for his work in folk dance forms, especially, he hailed from the community of Piaiye on the west coast of the island of St. Lucia.
Mr. Joseph passed away in 2015, but not before imprinting on an entire community and several generations the forms, and idiosyncrasies of a unique cultural art form.
The cast of bèlèlesh, made contact with Palmer Joseph the surviving daughter of Augustus Joseph, who had a front row seat to the methods of teaching, sharing and passing on of the bèlè dance cultural artform.
This extremely fruitful interview and meeting allowed for learning, stimulation, clarification of points, probing and highlighting of further question necessary for the process of art creation. “We conducted a similar interview with Leo Amedee of Baboneau which revealed some contrasting information and dispelled some myths about cultural traditions…”
Miss Joseph also gave further leads for seeking and exploring the expanse of culture, understanding tenets, linkages, and similarities and differences associated with the practice of bèlè dance and related St. Lucian rituals, forms and practices.
The end of a Sunday visit, intended for just a few hours, saw the accumulation of a wealth of information to satisfy, yet stimulate the palette of movement, music and form which is the basis for the development of Bèlèlesh!
Richard continues to seek to provide the framework for networking and accessing the resources required for the optimality of the artistic product in St. Lucia and broadcasting it throughout the world.
As Rick Wayne once implied with respect to Sir Dereck Walcott’s work.. don’t be a “cultural neanderthal. ”
On December 13th, what St. Lucia celebrates as National day, find yourself in the know of St. Lucian indigenous dance, as four men take us on a contemporary journey that we all should understand and celebrate. Tickets are available from the Cultural Development Foundation.
— Source: Richard Constantin Ambrose