Artistry through movement
According to American modern dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham, "Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion."
The Company Dance Theatre is hosting their 27th annual season of dance, titled The Rising this weekend, which promises to be their best yet. Here are three reasons why this year is definitely one you can't miss - principal female dancers Lindsey Lodenquai, Renee McDonald, and principal male dancer Steven Cornwall will all be gracing the stage in fine form.
The ultimate trifecta not only aspire to master their technical skills on the stage, but they are often recognised, both locally and internationally, for engaging audiences, transcending from just movement to sheer artistry.
All followed different paths, which led them to the same destination, and today, we share the heart-to-heart interviews with Lodenquai, McDonald and Cornwall about their unique journeys which led them to ultimately connect with their love for dance.
Lodenqaui has loved dance for as long as she could remember, and by age five, she started ballet. Within 10 years, she had completed the ballet school and had also entered the JCDC Festival competition, where she was influenced by modern technique. After completing her GSAT examinations, she was finally allowed to join the Tony Wilson School of Modern Dance. She has been there ever since.
McDonald started dancing shortly after she was introduced to artistic director Tony Wilson by her best friend, who still dances with her at the company, at the age of eight. She would go to her classes and that sparked an interest. She immediately asked her parents to get her registered for the company as soon as possible.
Cornwall joined the dance world close to nine years ago, proving that it is better late than never when it comes to the matter of one's passion. He was also introduced by his best friend, who was attending dance rehearsals. One day, he went to one of her performances and was blown away by the experience, that he joined her dance classes. He started out doing dancehall, but transitioned to modern contemporary, enrolling in the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, going into Ashe Performing Arts Company, before finally landing at the Tony Wilson's The Company Dance Theatre.
Inspired by many, Lodenqaui made special mention of one choreographer who continues to motivate her and push her beyond her limit, fellow dancer and friend, Renee McDonald.
"Her choreographic process is just so deep and different that it allows dancers to get so connected with the piece, investing not only the physical, but the emotional as well. And I love that."
McDonald started taking choreography seriously after creating a piece for her friend's fundraiser at 19 years old. Dr L'Antoinette Stines, creative director of L'Acadco Dance Force, after seeing her dance, told her that she was born with the gift of choreography and she believed her.
"I was totally inspired by those words from Dr Stines and I've been creating pieces ever since. Choreography actually gives me far more satisfaction than dancing. I am very excited to grow as I branch out."
While she doesn't have a favourite choreographer, McDonald noted that she really admires Sade Bully, a principle dancer at Garth Fagan Dance Company in New York.
"She is one of the most talented and courageous people I have ever met, sacrificing her medical career to follow her dreams."
Cornwall, who teaches and has also crossed over into choreography, highlighted that his students inspire him everyday.
"Watching them absorb everything I teach and seeing them eager to learn, to know, and just to even move is an amazing process for me." As far as choreographing goes, he has this to say, "Although I have choreographed a few pieces, I don't feel it's my calling, I'm more a performer, but I try sometimes, it may come out good or just a hot mess, but that's fine, it's how I feel at that moment in time."
Czechoslovakian Jiri Kylian, he asserted, is by far his favourite choreographer because he never conforms to the norm, has a unique way of interpreting movement and coaches his dancers to move with fluidity on stage.
As it relates to the most difficult role she has ever had to play in a dance, Lodenquai revealed that it would have to be the time she played Anni Palmer in The Company Dance Theatre's Rose Hall.
"The entire ballet was centred on the deception and trouble that this woman created, so there was a lot of emotion and role-playing involved as she interacted with various other characters. And that is nothing like me, so I had to step out of my comfort zone and assume my role."
Speaking of difficulty, Lodenquai has been having a warm time raising funds for her new adventure, which allows her to do a semester at the school as well as a summer intensive.
"From here, I will be able to audition for the company if I choose to. And, of course, I will have to find my way there."
Sponsorship for this event has been very slow in coming, according to the dancer, but as she draws closer to the date, she says she has received some financial backing. "Thankfully, Tony Wilson has allowed me to have my own benefit night of CDT's season on November 21. I really hope to fill the Little Theatre, as this money will assist me on my way to the Big Apple. My Gofundme account has also been very active on social media, and I am so grateful for all those who have supported this journey."
The next move for McDonald is to focus more on choreography and dance photography, while Cornwall plans to learn a completely new dance technique and master it.
Outside of dance, McDonald is a law student at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, who loves to travel.
"I plan to visit as many countries as I possibly can in my lifetime."
Cornwall disclosed that he is a foodie and will eat for days, so anything with food, he is all for it.
"I've been interested in the culinary field for years, I'm also very good in the kitchen, so that is something else to look into."
They all encourage anyone who wants to pursue dance to do so.
Lodenquai: "I wouldn't even limit it to dance, but if there is something that you love and that you are passionate about, don't hesitate to pursue your dreams."
McDonald: "Prepare to make sacrifices in the other areas of your life if you plan to pursue dance, but it is a highly rewarding art form, especially if you open your mind to more genres than one in your pursuit. Be versatile!"
Cornwall: "If dance is what you love and what you think about each day, just go for it. Never live life with regrets. To that, risk and jump in the deep end, you will never know what the outcome is unless you jump. Be confident, be willing to learn, open your mind to every and anything. Make them believe you, but before all that can happen, you have to believe in yourself. Just do it!"