Wed | Apr 24, 2019

Campion College spreads 'Roots' to the diaspora

Published:Sunday | February 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew
Members of the Campion College Dance Society in a scene of their Roots production.
The Campion College Dance Society has also included dancehall musical genre in their Roots production.

The Dance Society of Campion College, in its seventh season of dance in July 2017, used the art to convey the message of having national pride by accepting the experiences and talents that have made Jamaica stand out on the international stages. Little did the artistic director, Dwight Wright, know the production Roots would have attracted the attention of the New York-based York College when he presented a proposal and met with Kwame Clarke, production manager at the institution.

Wright told The Sunday Gleaner, "The season had powerful dances purposely titled 'Roots' and carefully crafted to reflect 55 years of independence and highlighted the successes as a nation, but also to showcase the struggles the nation faces as we try to remain optimistic about the future of our country.

"The main aim of this trip to New York is to primarily expose the students because they have worked so hard and it is good to know that their talent is being recognised and it will really encourage them as young artistes," he continued.

Second, Campion College is known widely for having high academic standards but it has been yearning to show its artistic side on a broader scale and to give the brand visibility in the diaspora. The trip is two-part that will also take the young performers to Massachusetts to participate in a dance cultural exchange programme.

While the school has won over 70 gold medals in national competitions and was recently awarded the Ivy Baxter Trophy for the most outstanding dance troupe in the country when people hear about Roots, there are many who do not know it is dancers in the secondary year of school. According to Wright, the driving force is "the honour that comes from representing Jamaica on the local and international stage".

He is assisted by three of Jamaica's leading dancers, Oraine Frater, RenÈe McDonald, and Orville McFarlane, who did most of the choreography for the productions.

The opening dance 'Cry of Africa' focuses on Jamaica's independence while other pieces like 'In Our Lane' by McDonald, 'Skin Deep' by McFarlane and 'Misogyny' by Wright (which reportedly had female members of the audience in tears walking out the theatre during intermission) carries with them deep emotion and relatable topics that will undoubtedly engage the viewers overseas.

Currently, the dance society is organised from junior to advanced levels of dance, but also has an alumni troupe with seven immediate past students of Campion College. All members will not be able to make the journey, but a cast of approximately 40 individuals (including dancers, chaperones and the production team) is costing the school a pretty penny.

"It has been really rough as it relates to acquiring the money to get to New York but we have been fundraising like crazy, especially as we are not being paid to perform," Wright said.

The CHASE Fund has been generous to the group in covering some of the expenses, but the Campion College Dance Society is still about 30 per cent from the target, estimating that the trip will cost more than US$50,000 to facilitate transportation, accommodation and provision of food.

Thus far, some of the fundraising efforts included a 'Toll Day' earlier this month, but the dance society is trying with another event, Nuit en Blanc, a night of wine, cheese and dance, to be held in Campion College's courtyard next Sunday, February 25 - exactly one month before the dance society is expected to grace the stage at the Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Centre at York College.

"We try to involve the Campion College community by asking for donations from the parents to help offset the expenses of the tour," Wright said. The artistic director speaks passionately about spreading the social message to the diaspora through Roots, and even more so about the talents on the rise being trained at the school.