Passion for dance
SHE’S YOUNG and fresh.
But it would be a mistake to call her green.
At 25, Olivia Hall already has 20 years experience as a choreographer, dancer and teacher.
The self-proclaimed shy lass, etched her name on the scene when her group Of Another Nature took a silver medal their first year at NIFCA in 2008 for a piece called Soul Escape, which was a tribute of sorts to prisoners at the local jail.
She followed up by taking the Madame Ifill Award for Dance with a gold medal-winning performance of The Institute last year. That piece focussed on artists who suffer with bi-polar disease.
And even though she got her lowest medal in the form of a bronze for this year’s piece titled Hajile, a tribute to her friend Kelly-Ann Welch and the five others who perished in the Campus Trendz fire, it is arguably her best year yet. She said the piece served as therapy for her to come to terms with the loss of her friend.
Not only was she nominated for the Prime Minister’s Scholarship, she also took the newly introduced Creator’s Prize for dance.
“I was really surprised….I just felt really excited and proud,” she said of last Sunday’s announcement at the Lime NIFCA Gala.
All of the winning pieces, especially The Institute, had a depth to them that hit home to the audience and left an indelible mark. Hall is often stumped when asked where that kind of work comes from.
“Sometimes it’s life experiences. Art is a reflection of life experiences and the way life is and life’s lessons. Sometimes I would just be sitting down and things would come up….Sometimes we get so technical and we forget that choreography is just plain movement.
“I don’t know where it comes from. It’s really a gift from God and I’m really thankful. I don’t know, my mind just goes ‘create, create’. And I’m always thinking of what next to do. I have choreographies in my mind that I would like to put on stage next year,” she disclosed.
Still a bit overwhelmed by the awards and the nomination, she insists that winning prizes was not foremost in her mind when she competed.
“I don’t really compete for prizes. I compete more with myself, and more kinda with the audience because I want them to get my message, or to try to become in-tune with my mind, and with my creation, and my choreography, and my dancers,” Hall stated.
It seems like arts run in her veins. She comes from a family of musicians, but dance has always been her passion.
She started at the tender age of five at the Christ Church Girls’ School and she also took classes at the Barbados Dance Theatre, continuing during her years at Deighton Griffith and the Barbados Community College where she gained a BA in creative arts dance and theatre arts. All of that is in pursuit of the dream she had from a very young age.
“I always wanted to teach dance. I don’t know why dance, I just wanted to teach and choreograph. I always saw myself as a dancer, but more like creating and having my own school,” the lady who is looking to do a masters in dance and education and choreography explained.
While there was no one in her immediate family to fuel her love of dance, her enthusiasm for the artform was driven in part by the writings of Richild Springer about Paris and the teachings of Dawn-Lisa Callender and Gene Carson who taught at the Barbados Dance Theatre.
The love for her craft runs deep, she has said on more than one occasion that she wishes she could marry dance. It is to that eternal love she turns for refuge when life’s challenges threaten to consume her.
“Dance honestly has helped me through some of my real tough challenges in life.
I think it makes me centred. Whenever I have a problem, I just have to listen to music and dance, and it’s like therapy for me. It just is right for me,” Hall said adding that she liked to write in journals as well.
After 20 years of working to perfect the love of her life, she has observed that it has reached a plateau in this country and that there is an absence of passion. There is no one solution, but she thinks if dance were to be given the same prominence as music and drama; if it were to be placed on the school curriculum and get the youngsters involved, exposure to expertise from other cultures and the re-establishment of the Barbados Dance Theatre are some of the things that would restore dance to its former place.
With every passing day she yearns to have a place where people can be exposed to her technique, which “is a work in progress”.
“Before my eyes close, I would want to know that I have a dance school, which whatever dance comes in, that they know that they experience my dance technique.
That’s something I’m working on….People can go through my school and they come out with something unique, very different and something that can change their lives. That’s what I’m working towards,” she said.
She also yearns to see the day when Barbadian dance techniques like the moves associated with the Barbados Landship are on an international stage.
Last Sunday’s announcement of the Creator’s Prize is still fresh on her mind and she said she was very proud of the work done by Of Another Nature and that she already had ideas for choreographies for next year.
The University of the West Indies student continues to experiment and stretch the limitless boundaries of her craft, and she thanks Yvonne Weekes, Carson and Jennifer Sealy, for helping to shape her artistic frame of mind.