How Barbadian Cultural Forms Are Appreciated, Presented, and Assessed at NIFCA PART 2

To be assessed by a panel of one’s peers continues to be a double-edged sword for NIFCA participants.

Dr. John Hunte

In 2020 , are we seeing presentations that indicate the level of creativity, choreography, performance and presentation in keeping with those earlier performances? Are we seeing presentations that demonstrate the level of commitment and dedication to excellence and evidence of consistent technique and performance skills necessary to do well? Or is it fair to say that NIFCA judges are incapable of appreciating these dances? To claim that audiences or judges are incapable of assessing afro-centric dance is a complicated one.

To be assessed by a panel of one’s peers continues to be a double-edged sword for NIFCA participants. Beyond that, Grant’s over-arching concern seems to support a re-examination of the training, execution and assessment criteria for Caribbean cultural forms. Such agendas, that seek to revisit and make Afro-centric narratives central in Barbados, need artistic and intellectual rigor and thorough research.

In this regard, Grant’s reference to Beryl McBurnie as an indigenous researcher of dance deserves context. He uses ‘indigenous’ as an exclusive term when its meaning signifies several external factors that intersect and impact on a space and its inhabitants. According to Molly Ahye, McBurnie herself began her dance life as a formally-trained classical dancer. Her investigation of Caribbean Cultural forms was not limited to ritual and social spaces in Trinidad but throughout the region and South America.

Taken from the National Cultural Foundation.

She, Lavinia Williams (USA/Haiti) and Ivy Baxter (Jamaica) were the three foremost Caribbean dance icons of the 20th century. They were all classically trained but sought to investigate the Caribbean reality to present relatable dance forms for their national and regional concert stage audiences. It was while studying at Columbia University, NY that McBurnie would have shared/taught and influenced the likes of Lavinia Williams and Katherine Dunham both who (as dancers/anthropologists) went on to Haiti and subsequently developed their styles and technique. Nonetheless, McBurnie encouraged her dancers to be versatile in all styles of dance, a core aesthetic that remains relevant to accomplished professional dancers to this day. Part of the skill became how to bring an interpretation of social or ritual event from the space to the concert stage performance and retain its “essence”.

In Barbados, since the demise of Yoruba in the 1980s there has been sporadic information gathered from groups like PCW and agencies like the Commission of Pan-African Affairs but this now needs to be updated and shared. The research on Landship resulting with the documentary “The Engine and the Ship” is one such example of PCW’s research endeavours.

Stay tuned for part 3 next week! To read part 1 click here!

Dr. John Hunte
Cultural Studies
UWI Cave Hill

Culture Clinic is a weekly column crafted by Dr. John Hunte. Photography by Adrian Richards.

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