Sun | Feb 17, 2019

RJRGLEANER Honour Awards - L'Acadco: Training the dancing body from thought to finish

Published:Wednesday | January 16, 2019 | 12:17 AMKeisha Hill/Gleaner Writer

ON THE AWARD: "I want to thank the RJRGLEANER Group for this recognition as it is for me a special honour. I have had a relationship with The Gleaner. You cannot run a dance company and not have a relationship with The Gleaner. On behalf of L'Acadco and I, we are very humbled when these things happen. Dancing is not the easiest profession to go into because you are starting from scratch with nothing."

- L'Antoinette Stines

VISION FOR JAMAICA: "Jamaica has a a unique cultural treasure in dance that can unite music and dance from a spiritual space where the ancestors live through our people and continue to inspire us as we aim to make Jamaica a better place for everyone."

- L'Antoinette Stines

This is our dance! We dance to survive, to make it through the chaos that is the tempo of our times, to shed skins, tear off masks - the shattering of borders between body, heart and mind. The beats, the patterns and the rhythms have kept calling L'Antoinette Stines deeper and deeper into the passion of dance.

Dr L'Antoinette Stines is the founder, artistic director and principal choreographer of L'Acadco: A United Caribbean Dance Force, which is widely regarded as Jamaica's leading contemporary dance company.

For her, dance is the fastest, most direct route to the truth that sets the stage to reclaim one's ability to disappear into a safe space, without a critic, a judge or an analyst.

"Dance is a language that is done with the body that represents life, the culture, represents the people in the space. It speaks for everyone at any time. I use dance to speak about my people in Jamaica and the broader Caribbean and to tell our stories," said Stines, whose L'Acadco is the recipient of the 2018 RJRGLEANER Honour Award for Arts and Culture.

In 1978, Stines, founded Miami's first black dance company, L'Acadco. However, upon her return to Jamaica in 1982, she continued to grow with her company, and together they have become dynamic ambassadors for Jamaican culture, through dance, and advocates for its preservation and development.

"I realised that I was able to train the dancing body from thought to finish, that they can work internationally in any company. My voice was very different from any other dance company and I had something new to give, something fresh," Stines said.

The company's membership has included dancers from Barbados, The Bahamas, Grenada, Bermuda, Cuba, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. These talented dancers represent some of the best in the Caribbean.

Stines continues to impact on the direction and future of Caribbean dance and has a long and varied performing history, which ranges from classical ballet to Yoruba 'Orisha' dance.

"Dance has always been an important aspect of our culture because we have always had dancers trained in classical ballet, modern dance, and traditional folk. But my method was different from others, including a whole new technique and methodology way of training the body called L'Antech," Stines said.

L'Antech is an eclectic Caribbean Contemporary Technique (CARIMOD), which synthesises African influences, Caribbean Folklore and is dominated by Jamaican Afro-Caribbean forms.

"L'Antech teaches the body unity of body, mind and spirit - thus making it very distinctive. This technique is the synerbridging of opposing and similar retention from the Caribbean and European terpsichorean material it therefore has the base and stabilising elements of classical ballet and material," Stines said.

Stines dance career began in Jamaica with Alma Mok Yen and continued to the Martha Graham School and through to Pepsi Bethel Authentic Jazz Dance Company and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

Regarded as an expert in popular, folkloric Jamaican dance and the development of contemporary dance, Stines has lectured in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and North and South America.

Using L'Acadco as her canvas, Stines' choreographic work is inspired by the virility of Jamaica's culture and ancestry.

"Jamaica is the hardest audience. To be accepted in my own country is my biggest achievement. If Jamaicans accept you, you can go anywhere afterwards," Stines said.

Stines also has experience as choreographer, casting director, trainer, or cultural consultant for films such as Revelation, Miramax Film Company (USA, 2000), Baby Mother (England, 1997-1998), Dancehall Queen, Island Films/Polygram (England, 1997), Ancestral Memories in Dance (Jamaica,1993); and in television and advertising and promotional campaigns for companies such as Unicomer Jamaica (Courts) Limited Ltd and Wray & Nephew Jamaica Ltd.

In 1988, she was involved with the Kelvinator advertisement, which was the first complete dance commercial used in advertisement in Jamaica featuring Rastafarian Nyahbingi language of dance.

Her work in theatrical productions includes Jamaica Pepperpot, Jamaica Rundown, 1991National Pantomine - Man Deya, Laugh Jamaica, Cross Roads, Heart Tease, Area Boy, Voices, A Play on the life of Alexander Bedward, Echo in the Bone, Once in an Island, Oliver & Pinocchio, Yard '99', and Forbidden.

She has choreographed music videos for artistes such as Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths (Neighbours), Ziggy Marley (Look Who's Dancing), Rita Marley (Who Colt The Game, Take Me to Jamaica), Arturo Tappin (Breaking), E.T. Webster (Why), Count Prince Miller (Mr. Bojangles), Baba Mal (Yele), Mystic Revealers (Righteous), Foxy Brown, Baby Cham and Spragga Benz (Oh Yeah), Wayne Wonder (No Letting Go), Junior Gong (What Goes Around), Shaggy and Alizade (Me Julie), and Luciano (I Remember When).

"I never expect to be recognised for my work. I do my work so that in the audience a soul would be touched. My work speaks about love, respect for women and remembering our heroes," Stines said.

For its contribution to dance, Stines has been honoured in Jamaica, Trinidad, Mexico, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com