The COCO Dance Festival began in 2009 with dance professionals and founders Nancy Herrera, Sonja Dumas, Nicole Wesley and Dave Williams. This festival gives choreographers and dance professionals the opportunity to pioneer approaches to choreography and explore contemporary and post modern forms of dance. Moreover, there is much space to experiment with dance aesthetics. This festival is a dynamic force for propelling the Trinidad and Tobago Dance Industry. It fosters the development of collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches in the production of art, performance and lecture with The University of the West Indies and the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s dance programmes. Basically, it offers mentorship for emerging choreographers by giving them a professional platform for performance and experimentation with direction for development as their steward.
So far the work of founders as well as creative art and dance professionals from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Canada and the U.S.A have been showcased. This year the festival has a guest cast of the New York Battery Dance Company (supported by the Embassy of the United States of America), The University of South Florida’s Dance Program, The University Dance Company of Texas Tech University (supported by Texas Tech University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts). The COCO screening committee also chose Akuzuru, Brittany Williams, Deliece Knights, Jacob Cino, Jelae Stroude-Mitchell, Jillene Forde, Juan- Pablo Alba- Dennis, Kinesha Charleau, Sade Chance and Santee Smith to perform. The COCO community outreach programme has selected finalists from the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy competition to make their contribution. Other dance entities participating include Ibis Dance Company directed by Sherma Burke, New Edition by Jodie Daniel, Eh Beh Oui Don Don directed by Kizzy Murray. founders and directors like Sonja Dumas and Dave Williams will also feature their work.
The calendar of activities include a free film series( four french films in collaboration with L’Alliance Francaise), the annual COCO awards and the COCO Dance Festival programme of performances. There is also the community outreach initiative with a series of master dance classes that are being facilitated by local and foreign dance professionals at TTD$40.00 per class. The types of dance forms include contemporary modern, contemporary Amerindian, Zena Rommet Floor Barre and Modern African Caribbean techniques. The COCO Dance Festival itinerary starts on Friday October 3, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. (inclusive of the COCO Awards). On Saturday October 4, 2014 there will be outdoor/indoor spatial presentation at 6:30 p.m. However, showtime is at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday October 5, 2014 there is an outdoor/indoor spatial presentation at 5:30 p.m with showtime at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are only TTD$100.00. They are available at Alliance Francaise, The Bread Basket in St. Ann’s and Woodbrook, participating choreographers and Queen’s Hall.
After being invited to attend the dress rehearsal for the COCO Dance Festival last evening at the Queen’s Hall we realize the commitment that this country (public and private stakeholders) has made to its creative arts industry. This is not to be taken lightly. An industry can only grow and develop further from partnership, collaboration, stakeholder relationship, excellent quality and quantity of resources, zero tolerance for laissez faire attitudes, an ambition to improve, a strong recognition for standards and their maintenance of them. They identify that dance is an art form and like true connoisseurs of this art form Sonja Dumas and her team appreciate that there is no room for sub standards. Rehearsal after rehearsal they must get it right because the international stage is watching. But this is not the only reason. Aside from the fact that this is the social media era where any click on a camera phone literally puts Trinidad and Tobago on the map Sonja and everyone participating must ensure that quality of production is up to par because this affects end result of production.
The design thinking behind costumes, choreography, musical arrangements, programme structure all tie together to evoke emotions and convey the visionary’s (committee’s ) concept. Last evening, locals and foreigners performed on the same stage. There was a high rank of execution and delivery to the audience. However, there was enough clarity to distinguish among the Caribbean, American and Canadian dance professionals. Simply, each contingent owned their dance aesthetic identity which is most important in any art form. I could not choose a favourite for the night because they were all exceptional. They communicated a plethora of undertones; love, happiness, sadness, pain, struggle, freedom,celebration and so much more which were easily identifiable. The couples, solos, trios, groups were all on point. Their exchange and collaboration made for the perfect night allowing the viewers to vicariously live through their performance. (Yes it was that authentic even though we were just observing!) Yet, it was the design management of the production that allowed for the COCO Dance Festival to be identified as such a superior creative arts brand in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.
Overall, the advent of training sessions, the exposure to foreign work and these outstanding dance personas, the support of local dance institutes, production companies, the passion for dance and the national pride exist to promote the art form as an international brand with its distinct aesthetic. They signify advance development for the creative arts sector in Trinidad and Tobago. The “powers that be” should carefully consider the magnanimous implications of future development and promotion of the creative arts sector. The COCO Dance Festival is already a box office hit. One can only suggest that creative arts as a solution to the migraine of diversification in Trinidad and Tobago (an ironically already diverse destination) would result in the catapulting of a more sustainable and stronger economy.
So what are you still waiting for?
Go get your tickets!
Don’t miss out on this experience!
Thank you Liza Miller ( Estuary PR)
for your invite to cover
The COCO Dance Festival
Let’s Go Trinidad and Tobago