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The beauty of dance

ArtSea Dance returns this year with a four-day residency program. Students will have the opportunity to engage in professional choreographic experience with three celebrated choreographers and directors in a curriculum that will model the real day-to-day experience of being in a professional company.

In the program’s third year, this year’s residency will be different from past years by providing a deep dive into the company experience, according to ArtSea Dance Founder Courtney Celeste Spears. Mock auditions for group placements, morning company class and intimate workshops with choreographers will be par for the course in the professional residency program for ages 13-plus.

The youth program for ages seven to 12 will model the same format as the professional residency, but will cater to a younger audience and allow them a more personalized experience. The workshop will include morning warm-ups, vision board/creative crafts and intimate workshops with choreographers.

Spears said this year’s youth program will allow the younger students to work personally with a choreographer, but also allow them time to work together in fun games, crafts and exercises.

ArtSea takes place June 25-28 at a new venue at Windsor Preparatory School, Old Fort Bay, between 9 a.m. and 3:15 p.m.

Spears, a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater who will conclude her first season with the company then hop on a plane three days later to direct the third edition of ArtSea, is excited, considering the changes to this year’s program.

“We’ve extended it by a few days so that we don’t feel that we have to rush through two days over the weekend [and] we’re having it at Windsor Preparatory School so we can spread out,” she said.

“Instead of the students having short, hour-long classes, the students are going to have the opportunity to work more intimately with the choreographers who will be choreographing a small piece on them…it’s almost like a residency – like a trial, versus them feeling like they’re getting talked to, they actually get that curated, choreographic experience that is kind of modeled after what we get to do over every day.”

Joining Spears at the third ArtSea once again will be Dr. Sheyi Ojofeitimi – the owner of Synthesis Physical Therapy, and senior physical therapist at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – who will once again address body wellness with local dancers; as well as Hollie Wright, a faculty member at The Ailey School.

Spears’ fellow Company members Christopher Wilson and Chalvar Monteiro will also be in New Providence to teach at ArtSea. Troy Powell, who is the second person to lead Ailey II, will also be teaching this year.

Spears, who is wrapping up her first season with Ailey Company, after dancing initially with Ailey II, said she is further excited to share what she herself has learnt.

“Every time I feel like I grow, I just want to continue to share it back. I’m so excited.”

Dancing with the company in her first year was hard and she had to ask herself if she had it in her to do both and ArtSea again.

“I’m not going to lie. It was hard. This was my first year being a member of the Ailey Company, and it was really hard because I was learning a lot myself. I was growing. I was being pushed to my own physical limits. It was really hard and I had to stop and say, ‘Can I do both?’ Can I continue to build this while I’m building my career?”

She said an encounter with a parent of two of her former students sealed it for her after he told her that his daughters told their school teacher that they wanted to be ArtSea teachers when they grew up.

“I was like ‘oh my goodness’, the world for dance as big as it gets for them is Art Sea – I have to do this again. I have to come back. I have to do this. This is what allows me to grow and pass it back and do it again,” she said.

“Being in Nassau and traveling around the world is a pleasure, but there’s nothing like coming home and giving back and creating opportunities for hungry students.”

The objective of ArtSea is to provide the students with tools to build their self-confidence and give them applicable knowledge in pursuing a professional dance career. The young artists who attend participate in four genres of dance, a body and wellness workshop, a question and answer session with faculty and teaching artists, dancing in college seminar and a final performance showcase.

Through workshop events, the students learn dance classroom etiquette, technical dance skills, teamwork, communication skills, body awareness and injury-prevention and the process of dance college applications.

Spears says staging the dance workshop again feels right.

“It feels like home, so I’m excited to do it again,” she said. “We’re also going to have a short dance history lesson so they can understand where dance came from, and where it can take you.”

The cost of the youth program is $125, with the professional residency program at $200, and can be paid at The National Dance Company of The Bahamas, Nassau Street. Late registration comes into effect on June 17 with all prices increasing by $50; day of registration prices increase by $100 and all day-of registration must be paid in cash.

ArtSea will also offer three full and three partial scholarships to persons wanting to participate in the program. Applicants have to write a one-page letter that includes what dance means to them, what their biggest dreams are and how dance positively impacts their community; and post their favorite dance photo or video on Instagram with the hashtag #artseadance. All scholarships cover the price of registration to the program; the value is not applied toward other program, materials or sessions that are not directly associated with the ArtSea Dance Workshop.

An addition to this year’s workshop will be The Bahamas Chapter of The Links, Incorporated’s sponsored panel discussion, an event at which Spears as well as the incoming faculty, along with members of Links, can engage in dialogue and hear other perspectives on how to continue to lift and build the arts. That will take place at the Balmoral Club on Wednesday, June 26.

“We wanted to create the space where we could talk, mingle, meet and hear some other perspectives on how we can continue to lift and build the arts, so that’s a really fun event,” she said.

Shavaughn Moss

Lifestyles Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Shavaughn Mossjoined The Nassau Guardianas a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor.Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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