Legacy: The Story of The Barbados Dance Project

How it began and what it achieved.

From September 1, 2011, my first day as NCF Cultural Officer-Dance, I devised a 4–5-year plan to develop dance in Barbados. I wanted dance professionals to Barbados to train consistently and seriously. Colleagues came through including: BaKari Lindsay (Trinidad/Canada), Kevin Ormsby (Jamaica/Canada) with Shelley Hebert (USA), Valencia James (Barbados/Hungary) and Jamal Callender (Barbados/USA) among others. My sense was that more frequent contact time with professionals would inspire a continued commitment towards excellence between workshops at the individual, in the dance academies and in national performances and presentations.


I targeted students and graduates at BCC and UWI among others interested in training and performance opportunities through the NCF Dance Desk Summer Intensive Programme (DDSIP). Here, dancers honed their craft and gained needed experience through daily classes, choreographic processes, and performance opportunities. Synergies in the NCFs Cultural Development Programming and Festival Division were established. Dance got integrated in NCF Heritage Walks, interpreting at the Visual Arts Exhibition, dance representation at READ-In, participating in the Folk Concert and other related projects. 

This initiative kept and tested the dancers’ ability to remain focused on their goal to become professional. Participants built their portfolios as performers in Crop Over activities, counselors for NCF Summer Camps, and were inspired to create and participate in NIFCA. The multiplier effect was exponential. Street and community-based dancers joined the BCC and UWI students forming non-competitive alliances across dance academies and groups.

Jamal Rashann Callender came often to visit his childhood home in the Bayland St. Michael. I knew of Callender from my NYC days 2001-2004 from working with Obediah Wright at Restoration Dance Theatre and going to Juilliard presentations. So, by 2012, when he had come with Jerilee Evanson and Peynyo to do a workshop at the Dance Place, Khalil Goodman, then Public Officer at the US Embassy introduced us. Immediately I facilitated a subsequent workshop for Callender. On this occasion, I had just connected to Community Dance Fest where Alicia Payne Hurley was Chief Judge and assisting with its coordination. Callender’s first workshop was very successful. Held at Rex Nettleford Centre UWI, it attracted over 80% male participation, fellows from the street dance community who arrived en masse to take ballet and contemporary. We witnessed an improved effect in technical execution and performance ability at Community Dance Fest as well.

Soon, Jamal Callender taught twice a year, once sponsored by the US Embassy, and since then by the NCF. Then, “in 2014 … finances for the arts sector were slashed… I felt it was my responsibility to give back.” (Callender) Then, he ambitiously embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for him and two colleagues from Ballet Hispanico to come down inspired by young dancers including Courtenay Thorne and Shea Best. I was dragged kicking and screaming into the crowdfunding arena.

Next … Part 2: BDP and the NCF Dance Desk 2014/2015

Teachers in Barbados who joined me at NCFDDSIP to train and create work included Tara Jane Herbert: guest teachers such as DawnLisa Smith, Geraldine Lynch, Jerilee Evanson, Mary Waithe among others making contributions toward its success!


Artwork and Photo Credit: Courtenay Thorne | Adrian Richards | Tony Clarke | National Cultural Foundation

Legacy: The Story of The Barbados Dance Project is a sub column crafted by Dr. John Hunte, PhD, Executive Director, BPD Inc. Photo credit by Adrian Richards

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