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Diplomacy through the arts

Published:Thursday | May 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Lovers of the arts (from left): Jeremiah Knight, counselor for public affairs at the US Embassy; Michelle Rollins, patron of Copeland’s upcoming performances in Jamaica; and founder of the Plié for the Arts Foundation, Marissa Benain.
Misty Copeland is the first African-American female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre in the company's 75-year history.

In the field of international relations, the arts can be used as a form of 'soft diplomacy', given their unifying quality. It makes good sense, therefore, that the United States Embassy in Jamaica is calling on its strong arts culture to celebrate the relationship between the two nations.

Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy Jeremiah Knight has called upon his home nation's expertise in the arts in a major way by collaborating with the PliÈ for the Arts Foundation to host Misty Copeland - the first African-American female principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre - and a 25-member delegation in the island from August 28 to 31.

"It's a win-win for us," said Knight of the collaboration. "This is part of our larger support of the arts. The arts represent a safe space for the sharing of culture, and the arts are a good way of spreading diplomacy."

During the visit, Copeland and the PliÈ for the Arts Foundation will engage approximately 200 dancers from varying dance groups from several secondary high schools and vulnerable communities across the island. Additionally, the program will have the US dance professionals conducting workshop sessions, master classes and a seminar (with stakeholders) over a three-day period. These workshops will present varying dance styles and techniques in ballet, jazz, Horton and modern contemporary. The gala event will also provide an opportunity for Jamaica's own talented performers to shine.

Patron of the event, businesswoman and philanthropist Michelle Rollins, pointed out that the arts are good for the soul.

"It is so important for us to promote the best of Jamaica through the arts," she said. She noted that Jamaican culture, beloved across the globe, includes first-class talent in the arts. She said it was time for Jamaican arts to achieve world-class status. This visit by Copeland and others is undoubtedly an important step in that direction.