Final day to register for Courtney Celeste Spears’ ArtSea dance convention
Through ArtSea, professional dancer Courtney Celeste Spears (granddaughter of Sister Sister Breast Cancer Support Group President Andrea Sweeting) is looking to continue to bring a high level of the art to the country of her mother’s birth, through the weekend-long convention dedicated to helping aspiring young dancers cultivate their talent and recognize the potential in pursuing a professional dance career.
Spears’ initiative strives to be the bridge that will connect artists of The Bahamas and the Caribbean to the vast dance world — whether it’s dancing in college to obtain a degree or dancing professionally. She says ArtSea is an outlet for young, talented artists to learn and grow within their craft.
“ArtSea is something that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s always been a passion of mine, and now it’s coming to fruition,” said Spears, ArtSea’s founder.
For young dancers wishing to avail themselves of the knowledge and talent that Spears will bring to the country, the late registration deadline of $150 per person cuts off today. The price includes all the activities for the weekend. To register online visit www.artseadance.org; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spears will bring incredible talent to town for the convention, including Renee Robinson, a former principle dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who just happens to be an idol of Courtney Celeste Spears. Robinson will lend her incredible talent to helping Spears stage her first ArtSea convention, which will be dedicated to helping aspiring young dancers cultivate their talent and recognize the potential in pursuing a professional dance career.
Joining Robinson will be fellow dancers Gabriel Hyman (modern), who, with Spears, is in his second season with Ailey II; Larissa Gerszke (ballet), who is with Complexions Contemporary Ballet; Courtney Ross, who is with Ron K. Brown’s EVIDENCE: A Dance Company; and Shannen O’Neill (jazz), who is currently on her first voyage as a dancer on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer where she performs Broadway shows.
ArtSea will be held June 24-25 at the British Colonial Hilton for dancers aged eight to 23.
The program’s objective is to provide students with the tools to build their self-confidence and give them applicable knowledge in pursuing a professional dance career.
Four genres of dance will be addressed at ArtSea — ballet, jazz, contemporary and hip hop.
Spears said young dancers should come ready to dance for the duration of the ArtSea convention and to be inspired.
“I’m getting so excited as ArtSea nears,” said Spears. “ArtSea is something that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s always been a passion of mine, and now it’s coming to fruition. It’s an honor for me to share my passion with The Bahamas and continue in bringing the dance community together. I want the youth of The Bahamas to have a weekend they will never forget, and learn how far dance can take them. The exposure they will get from this workshop is unlike anything they can imagine. Dancing has taken me all over the world, and I believe that ArtSea can truly change lives.”
Spears’ ability to bring the legendary Robinson to Bahamian shores means that local dancers will get the opportunity to work with a former principle dancer who has a stellar resume and has worked with many renowned choreographers — Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Donald McKayle, Judith Jamison, Ulysses Dove, Jerome Robbins, Bill T. Jones, Garth Fagan, Katherine Dunham, Hans Van Manen and Carmen de Lavallade.
“We are pleased to welcome the legendary Ms. Renee Robinson, former company member with The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, to The Bahamas. She is a global icon in the dance industry, and we are ecstatic to have her share her knowledge with us.”
Robinson’s resume also includes dance training in classical ballet at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet, the School of American Ballet, the Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Ailey School.
Her televised performances include the Kenney Center Awards; United States President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration; the Bill Cosby Special on Alvin Ailey, and on the PBS special “A Hymn for Alvin Ailey”.
In 2003 Robinson also performed at the White House State Dinner in honor of the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki.
During their 2006 season, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrated Robinson’s 25th year with the company; her tenure was the longest of any female dancer in the company’s history.
Bahamian dancers will get to work with Robinson, who upon her retirement was the last company member to have worked with The Ailey Company’s founder, Alvin Ailey. She was also the only dancer to have performed with all three of the company’s artistic directors (inclusive of Artistic Director Emeritus Judith Jamison and Jamison’s successor, Robert Battle).
Robinson is currently on faculty at Yale University.
Participants in the ArtSea workshop will learn dance classroom etiquette, technical dance skills, teamwork, communication skills, body awareness, injury-prevention and how to process dance college applications.
College consultant Tracy Miller as well as physical therapist Sheyi Ojofeitime will also conduct ArtSea workshops.
Miller, who is the operations and marketing manager at Parsons Dance Foundation and responsible for all daily and project management, digital and print marketing, donor relations, and event planning, will host a dancing in college seminar.
“I got a full scholarship for college through dance,” said Spears. “And a lot of them and their parents didn’t even know that is an option.”
Ojofeitime, the senior physical therapist at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who is responsible for providing onsite and tour physical therapy services to dancers and staff, will conduct a body and wellness workshop. Dancers are asked to bring their yoga mats with them.
During the workshop, Spears said young dancers will learn how to maintain the health of their body to prevent injuries and encourage longevity in their careers.
“As dancers, we use our bodies so strenuously, and a lot of the dancing industry is knowing how to take care of your body and being able to take care of your body on your own,” she said.
Spears said the quality faculty that she has been able to put together to come to New Providence for ArtSea is an honor.
“We are excited to be welcoming Gabriel Hyman, Larissa Gerszke, Courtney Ross and Shannen O’Neill, all young professionals currently succeeding in the dance industry,” she said.
A final performance showcase will allow the artists to display what they learned during the ArtSea convention.
Spears said ArtSea is her way of reaching young people. She describes dance as the “beautiful vessel” she has been provided to be able to give back.
“I feel that this is what God has called me to do. We have to always remember that the young generation is the future of The Bahamas and the world, and I feel that my vessel through which to give back and share is through dance. And Nassau is home for me. I feel so alive when I’m there. My family is there. My culture … my roots are there, so I’ve always felt extra passionate about trying to bring back all that I’ve learned and all that I know from being in the States to the place that I call home.”
Spears, a Baltimore, Maryland native, is the daughter of the former D’Andrea Sweeting-Cary.
When ArtSea takes place, Spears’s two-year run with Ailey II, one of the most popular modern dance companies, will have come to an end and she will commence the next chapter in her dance career — auditioning for other companies.