Miss Dominica 2013 Leslassa Armour-Shillingford has always loved to dance. According to her mother Yvonne, her daughter just had to move to music even when she was a tiny child. As one of her innate talents, Leslassa has made a serious study of this highly disciplined performance art during her young life. And at the age of 20, this multi-talented beauty queen is definitely pursuing everything that she has
dared to DREAM! This was clearly evident at the Dance Showcase that was held at the Anchorage Hotel, Whale Watch and Dive Center on November 27,2013. There, she and like-minded dance colleagues definitely “used [their] talents to inspire others,” according to Leslassa’s credo.
The lovely young lady organized this fundraiser for her charity entitled the DREAM Foundation in partnership with the Dominica Institute for the Arts and renowned choreographer Monsieur Christian Gernet of Martinique.Leslassa firmly believes that every child should have the chance to pursue a well-rounded education and she is determined to help! Proceeds from this unique event were to benefit the Enrichment Programme at the Pioneer Preparatory School and the Newtown Primary School DREAM Dance Project. But most importantly, the Old Mill Cultural Centre’s dance space (Dominica Institute for the Arts) was the first priority as it is an empty room and the DREAM Foundation is furnishing it with the needed bars, mirrors and other necessities that will make it a proper dance studio. As she does instruct students there in her capacity as a dance teacher, she felt very strongly about how these enhancements could add to the overall experience of the young dance students.
When I took my front row seat before the show began,
I admired the dreamy backdrop at the back of the makeshift stage, which was positioned above the back of the swimming pool. In front, little boats with lighted candles drifted on gentle ripples and rose petals floated
placidly on the water’s serene surface. The surreal mood was captured right from the start – I was already transported to dream-like place.Then Leslassa’s brother Dafar warmly welcomed the audience and clearly explained the impetus of the Dream Foundation. And, as if by magic, the dance began.
The first piece certainly set the tempo for this sensational performance. The traditional Biguigne Haute from Martinique filled the space with energy and vibrancy. It was hard not to mark time with my feet as the dancers swirled around to the sexy beat.
Then came the three guys of BFree who showed us what strength and agility is all about in their contemporary hip-hop/break-dance selection. Talk about athletic prowess and rhythmical gymnastics – need I say any more? Those young men were fantastic!Unfortunately, my camera could not capture their bold moves in black outfits, but I can assure you their performance was awe-inspiring!
Then Leslassa and Ghandi Robin of BFree came out to show us their (and M. Gernet’s) interpretation of Enfants de la Rue. Flowing movements, strong poses
both individually and as a couple and some static postures captivated the audience.
I enjoyed the energy of the Mazurka and the precision of Leslassa and her colleagues as they presented this folkloric dance of Polish origin. I could see how it resembles the more commonly known polka. They were moving so quickly I couldn’t get a proper shot!
Then came Ghandi again with a hip-hop/break-dance piece inspired by Martinique’s BBoy veterans. It is a shame that I could not photograph his powerfully impressive moves. Well, it is too bad for you. As for me, I couldn’t have taken my eyes off him anyway!
When Leslassa performed a modern piece called ‘Promenade’, her interpretation of the challenge to be “in balance” with her own strength was clearly evident.
Her natural grace, flexibility and strength complemented each expressive pose.
While I did enjoy every piece in the Dance Showcase, I was especially moved by Claire and Colette’s performance of ‘Caco’. In this modern dance, the symmetry of the moves and poses of the two dancers was spellbinding.
I felt again transported to a dream-like state and I meditated on their precise movements, which perfectly mirrored each other.
I was awakened from my surreal suspension by the playful ‘Folie Chaise‘, wherein the ladies Leslassa, Clair, Colette, Anne and Claudine engaged in a game of musical chairs. It looked like so much fun that I wanted to play too!
Although the entire programme was less than an hour, the audience was enthralled with the well performed selections. As a finale, they were treated to a hot ‘Salsa Exhibition’ and actually invited to join in. Choreographer, Monsieur Christian Gernet directed the dance from front and center stage, as he instructed the dancers and participants en francais as to which way they should turn next, while moving to the Latin beat. Those on-stage in were certainly glowing along with the dancers when they finished this set!
I waited for a short while afterwards to congratulate Leslassa on her superb organization of this wonderful Showcase of Contemporary and Folkloric Dances, which was produced and performed at a very high standard. The hours of preparation, rehearsal and dedication of all the participants was not lost on me.
Then I left the Anchorage Hotel on a high note, knowing that the proceeds from this exceptional evening would be helping other young students to realize their dreams.
Thank you Leslassa for this gift to help holistic education on the Nature Isle. I hope you’ll do another event like this one very soon. You certainly know how to make many people smile. : )
*And with extra appreciation to you, Miss Dominica 2013 for taking time from your busy schedule to review this piece so promptly before publication. Best wishes for your continued success in whatever you do!