Caribbean School of Dancing celebrates 65 years

 Island in The Sun choreographed by Bridgette Wilson for Fantasy in Dance 2018.  - Mark Lyndersay
Island in The Sun choreographed by Bridgette Wilson for Fantasy in Dance 2018. – Mark Lyndersay

Disney’s Encanto, a story by Freetown Collective’s Muhammad Muwakil and two pieces by one of its own teachers will feature when the Caribbean School of Dancing (CSD) celebrates its 65th anniversary.

It will stage its annual show Fantasy in Dance on Saturday and Sunday at Queen’s Hall..

Principal Bridgette Wilson said the event will showcase the progression a student of the school goes through. The full school will be involved in the performance of Encanto, from the babies to the seniors.

Students of the Caribbean School of Dancing during rehearsal for Fantasy in Dance ’22. Photo courtesy Mark Lyndersay – Mark Lyndersay

“We decided to do it because the students were begging for it,” Wilson explained. “It was about keeping the students engaged, and we felt strongly we could give them that. Encanto starts off the show, with a variety of dances, including ballet, modern, hip-hop, contemporary – that’s where you see the range of dance styles the school offers.”

Zion’s Heart, the collaboration with Muwakil, performed by the senior school students, she said, was symbolic of the many collaborations the school has done over the years with artists in different spheres, including painter and mas designer Carlisle Chang and the Lydians Chorale, among others.

Isabelle Julien, student-teacher of Caribbean School of Dancing will star as Mirabel in the school’s adaptation of Disney’s Encanto. Photo courtesy Renaldo Ramos – Renaldo Ramos

“Zion’s Heart is where we see the spirit of CSD and the stuff we’ve done through our 65 years. We’ve thrived a lot through collaboration, and they continue to push the school forward. We performed with Freetown Collective for their local Carnival tour, and this is like a return in kind. Lost Tribe’s Valmiki Maharaj designed the costumes for Zion’s Heart and all the music for this piece is by local composers and musicians Etienne Charles, Ron Reid, and Clive “Zanda” Alexander, as well as one selection from Freetown Collective.”

The school’s dance company, the Metamorphosis Dance Company, will perform Side A/Side B, which was choreographed by Wilson this year, and Somos Siete by teacher Terry Springer, which he developed during the pandemic in 2021.

Prinicpal of Caribbean School of Dancing Bridgette Wilson. –

The Port of Spain school was founded in 1957 as the Marcia Mose Ballet School, and later renamed the CSD. Students range from the age of three to 13 and over, both male and female, and have the option of joining the dance company.

Wilson urged audiences to come early on performance nights, as there will be a legacy exhibition in the Queen’s Hall foyer.

“I’d refer to it as a mini-museum. You’ll get to find out about the history of the school, and anyone who attended the school will be able to connect with the information out there, either through pictures or old programmes. We will have commemorative programmes and calendar showcasing pictures from photographers of performances over the years.”

Island in The Sun choreographed by Bridgette Wilson for Fantasy in Dance 2018. Photo courtesy Mark Lyndersay –

Wilson became principal in 2017, having been a student since the age of four, then a company member, and teacher. She said there had been several changes over the years, the most prominent being the move away from preparing for exams.

“When I grew up in it, the end result of classes was to do an exam. I think the change has a lot to do with social media and the dance shows that have popped up over the years. We’re seeing people interested in the fun side of dance – they forget that dance is really hard, so they see people doing crazy twists and turns, and want to do that. Particularly during the pandemic, when we had to keep the students engaged, we let go of all of the exam structure, and did what we were calling free classes, where even though we did a ballet class, it wouldn’t be a syllabus class for an exam.

Teachers of Caribbean School of Dancing – Standing Bridgette, left, Sade Flemming, Nancy Herrera, Carol Yip Choy and Cretia Lewis. Kneeling are Maria Davis, left, Anaïs Hinds and Isabelle Julien withTerry Springer at front.
Missing are Michelle Mose and Adrian Daniel. – Mark Lyndersay

“We reintroduced creative dance, hip-hop, contemporary dance, salsa, yoga, and then we introduced a choreography class for the senior students, which has been very successful, as they now realise they have the power to choreograph.”

The school still prepares students for the Royal Academy of Dance ballet exams and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing modern, tap and jazz exams.

Another major change Wilson has been working on is creating more structure in marketing the school and expanding the management team. She said this let the teachers focus on teaching and being creative, while others can help with attracting students and getting the financing the school needs.

Senior teacher Carolyn Yip Choy, who has been teaching at CSD for almost 40 years, said it has been a rewarding experience. She began teaching there in 1984 after studying at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and teaching at the Royal Ballet School in the UK.

“I’ve seen students come out of their shells. Dancing helps our students with their discipline, focus and posture.

“All our past pupils have done well in whatever field they go into, whether it’s dancing professionally, law, teaching, whatever, and they come back and thank us for putting them on the right track in terms of being able to focus and being able to organise their time.”

She said performing in shows lets the students show their friends and family what they’ve learned, while preparing for the show and being backstage is a good experience for the children.

This is the first year Yip Choy is not choreographing for the Fantasy in Dance show. She and senior teacher Nancy Herrera are working backstage rather than side-stage directing the students.

“I don’t feel bad about it. It’s time for the younger teachers to do that work now, and it’s good to see them doing it, having taught many of them myself.”

Springer, an alumnus of the school, spent 28 years in Venezuela with the world-renowned Coreoarte, becoming the company’s artistic director in 2014. He returned in 2017 and began teaching at the CSD.

“I wanted to give back to the soil and the school that nurtured me. TT has a high standard in terms of training students, and the school was instrumental in my career. The students are disciplined and willing to learn, and there has been tremendous growth, especially over the last two years.

“People said it was impossible to teach dance online, but they would have to have second thoughts, as the students trained at home and did a full-blown show afterwards, so they were well trained. The teachers had to adapt to mirroring movements when teaching online, and the lack of proper floors meant we had to develop new exercises that would keep the strength and power in their legs. I think the students got stronger legs in the pandemic than in normal class.

“The number dropped, especially for younger children, but the senior students took full advantage of online training and were able to dance alone at home and improve themselves.”

He choreographed three pieces in the upcoming show: Somos Siete, We Don’t Talk About Bruno, and Zion’s Heart with the junior students.

Springer said he hoped policymakers would take a look at the fact that the school has been around for so long and give it the economic support it deserves.

“For a school to survive 65 years, it must be doing something for the culture. Many of the dancers from TT who go on to do well abroad come through CSD. Part of the objective of the school is to produce professional dancers, and that is why I’m happy to be on this staff.”

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