Artistry in Motion: Renee McDonald
Seamlessly shifting from delivering show-stopping performances on stage to building the blueprint behind the scenes is a journey worth sharing.
The story of young choreographer, dancer and photographer Renee McDonald hit high gear at age seven, when she began her dance training with the Tony Wilson School of Modern Dance in Kingston. She would go on to perform with The Company Dance Theatre for 12 years, progressing to rehearsal mistress for five of those years.
She captured hearts with captivating, thought-provoking and deeply moving narrative. While her fan base grew in number, she wasn't so sure of the direction. "The truth is, I struggled with an inferiority complex for years when it came to performing. I felt inadequate because I did not look like other dancers and I was not as flexible. I eventually realised that my negative thoughts and insecurity were taking a real toll on my mental health. Nothing compares to the feeling of being on stage, but the truth is, it just stopped being worth it," she confessed.
So, in 2016, McDonald traded in centre stage for choreographic storytelling, creating masterpieces for companies locally, regionally and internationally. Her biggest influence: artistic director and choreographer of The Company Dance Theatre, Tony Wilson. "Mr Wilson is, hands down, my biggest choreographic influence and inspiration. My style is a direct result of training with him and performing his style of choreography. He has also encouraged me since I started choreography, and as I grow, he continues to support me every step of the way. I am a resident choreographer of The Company Dance Theatre now and many of my opportunities arose from CDT performances. I will always be grateful to him for giving me the chance to create over and over again."
She has choreographed for The National Dance Theatre Company, CDT, L'Acadco, a United Caribbean Dance Force, Dance Theatre Xaymaca, the University Dance Society, Ailey II and The Emma Willard School in New York, along with the Barbados Dance Project. "I think Breaking Point on Ailey II is my best work."
She has even engaged in outreach initiatives in the Rose Town community and various churches and children's homes. "I like to use three Ds to describe my style - dynamic, dramatic and deep. I am very serious about musicality, shapes, patterns and levels. I use canons (domino effect) in most of my work and my pieces, even the seemingly abstract ones always have a deeper meaning."
With her main focus right now being successfully completing Norman Manley Law School, McDonald advises others to pursue multiple passions. "It is OK to have dreams - plural. Tackle your short-term goals before your permanent missions and do not live your life based on the expectations of others. Do everything you possibly can in one lifetime."
As for returning to the stage, she says, "Never say 'Never'."