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Caribbean School of Dancing celebrates 60 years

Published: 
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

There are very few institutions which can say they have been around longer than T&T has been a Republic. As the Caribbean School of Dancing celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, the recently formed Alumni Association is looking towards the future while acknowledging its past.

The association will be hosting a fund-raiser on November 24 and 25 towards the upgrade of their Port-of-Spain and Curepe buildings, to ensure it can continue to open its doors to its committed and talented students. On Saturday, an awards ceremony will be held to pay tribute to teachers who have dedicated their lives to the school. Many of these teachers were students of the School when Marcia Moze, then Turner, began teaching ballet in 1967.

Patricia Roe, an original student who has been teaching at the school for 50 years, said the key to the high standards of the school from the beginning was tying the teaching methods to London’s Royal Academy of Dancing’s Examinations. She said at the time it was felt that doing this was a way to raise the standard. “We felt that something external would be better than staying with local stuff, so we got people from away to come in and examine,” said Roe, “and it was trying to raise our standards, I suppose, to something that is more than just what exists here.

“As teachers in the Caribbean, we were small and we learned we had to get bigger. The issue was that it would help to improve standards of performance and technique, and of course what happened was that students went away and came back and taught us things they were learning away or things they had found to be more important than just the things they learned with us, and all of that helped to push it in a direction that I would say was upwards.”

Original student and teacher for over 30 years, Carol Yip Choy said the school first focused on ballet and then expanded to include folk, tap, modern and jazz, among others. She said the school takes students from the age of three-and-a-half, and she has had many students tell her they were pleased they did ballet, because it gave them a sense of discipline. Yip Choy said while certain students are selected to do the Royal Academy of Dancing’s Ballet Examination, “it’s not a compulsory thing, it’s for them to enjoy, and every two years we do a full school show at Queen’s Hall or NAPA, so they get a chance to perform.”

Yip Choy said the Metamorphosis Dance Company, which was founded by teacher Nancy Herrera along with Yip Choy and Crystal De Souza in 1995, has performed locally and all over the world, including Europe, England, Suriname, Costa Rica and Scotland.

Herrera, another student who has also been teaching at the school for over 30 years, said the school has been a net exporter of dancers as well as others who have gone into all areas of dance and theatre.

“Everybody seems to remember the very prestigious ones,” said Herrera, “but at the end of the day there’s a whole body of people that constitute theatre practitioners, teachers, etc. The dancing has molded people into better citizens and better thinkers and they’ve then gone on to do quite amazing things. For me one of the touching things is to meet people who’ve said what a difference dancing made to their lives, it was one of the few areas of their lives they were made to feel important and which they succeeded in, and they weren’t actually made to feel useless.”

Roe said she hopes the school will continue to exist and the people who carry it forward will lift it even further than where it is. “I believe what we have built over the years is worth keeping and developing on.”

Herrera said it is a testimony to the staff that the school as an institution is 60 years old. “The philosophy of the school is once you wanted to dance, you came to the school and so we literally have always welcomed everybody.

“I can’t name very many things in T&T that have maintained a consistently high standard for 60 years. I think that that is something that not only the school but the society needs to be very proud of, that it has been consistently maintained.”

For more info contact the school at 625-3225, email [email protected] or find the Association on Facebook at Caribbean School Of Dancing Alumni.

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