Victoria Josey was honored with the Lifetime Achievement award for her commitment to dance education and over 33 years of teaching at Government High School, and Georgia Storr-Taylor, of Georgia’s School of Dance in Grand Bahama, was honored with the Shirley Hall Bass Legacy Award for her exceptional interdisciplinary practice and cultural exchange programming during the 3rd Annual Shirley Bass Hall Dance Educators Virtual Forum and Awards Program.
During the program – named for the well-known dancer, dance educator, choreographer, and producer Shirley Hall Bass – the establishment of a foundation in Bass’ name that would support tertiary scholarships for dance education beginning in 2022 was announced.
The theme of this year’s forum, convened virtually via Zoom and Facebook Live, explored developing a national program for dance education. It was moderated by Bahamian cultural advocate Pamela Burnside, and ArtSea founder and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Company dancer Courtney Celeste Spears. Over 100 dancers, dance teachers, and non-dancers participated in the two-hour, multi-media event that showcased a performance of “Stand Up” by Georgia’s School of Dance and Bahamas Dance Theatre students, choreographed by 17-year-old Mischa Moxey. The program can be viewed on Facebook or YouTube at: https://www.facebook.com/cristin.carole/videos/580189809786648 or https://youtu.be/wLW2ZOD14yc.
The panel featured cultural scholar and dance innovator Dr. Nicholeen DeGrasseJohnson from Kingston, Jamaica, and Columbia University doctoral scholar and Arthur Zankel Urban Fellow Michelle “Chell” Parkins. The panelists discussed considerations and prerequisites for the development of a comprehensive dance education program in The Bahamas.
With a focus on best practices for kindergarten through Grade 12 and tertiary programming, DeGrasse Johnson and Parkins emphasized the need for a culturally relevant, research-based and student-centered curriculum. Both shared perspectives on the importance of understanding the history and significance of dance as an essential aspect of culture. According to Johnson, there needs to be provisions for new voices and new cultural images to emerge because the processes of cultural development and cultural translations are continuous.
Presently, The Bahamas has neither national standards, nor curriculum for dance education in public schools. While there is discussion about the development of a tertiary degree program for performing arts at the University of The Bahamas (UB), the lack of available scholarships to study performing arts education abroad and the closure of the National Dance School are central concerns in helping to bring the nation “in step”.
This year at the forum, a five-year plan was presented to advocate for and support dance education in The Bahamas. To begin this work, a prototype was developed for a “National Dance Education Survey”. An essential aim they say is collaboration with UB and the Ministry of Education on the development of national standards. The forum hopes to complete curricula and pilot programs in 2024, and support the matriculation of certified students as soon as 2025.
Through research, advocacy and collaboration, the Shirley Hall Bass Dance Educators Forum is intent on shaping dance as a part of arts policy in The Bahamas.
According to Dr. Faith Butler, associate professor, School of Education, UB, “the availability and quality of dance education can have a significant impact on the physical, spiritual and cultural health and wellness of our children.”
The Shirley Hall Bass Dance Educators Forum was co-founded by Butler and Cristin Carole, Hall Bass’ niece and former curriculum specialist with The Joffrey Ballet, and first convened in New Providence. Its mission is to establish dance as an essential discipline in Bahamian education, national identity and tourism community with a concerted focus on quality dance education.
Toward that end, the forum has developed a national blueprint for dance education – a detailed plan to promote dance in The Bahamas through education and advocacy and a survey for the general public that can be taken at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GQH2DBQ.