The Trevor Pretty Movement
BARBADIAN DANCER and choreographer Trevor Pretty is focused on a movement and has taken on a pretty big assignment.
Come June 10 this young man from Westbury New Road, St Michael has to stage a fabulous and well organized musical at the Black National Theatre in Harlem, New York.
Pretty is the writer, director, producer, choreographer, wardrobe director and wearer of many other hats for the musical Love, Life and Happy Endings, based on the real stories of five friends.
He will be busy for the next seven weeks, tweaking the script for the musical “so I can hit it on opening day”.
He conceded: “I am so nervous. Rehearsals for the show and meetings are ongoing every day.”
Selected after auditions in New York and New Jersey, the cast of 25 is mixed, but the role of lead girl in the musical falls to Tahirah Hinds, daughter of well-known Barbadian dancer and teacher, Danny Hinds. She will play Dhaima, named after Pretty’s mother.
Pretty explains why the cast is missing more local talent: “New York is a different environment to Barbados. Talent is not the problem . . . mentality is. Sacrifices have to be made and you have to be better than yourself. The cast is required to sing, dance and act. And most of them are professionals in those fields.”
Pretty, who describes the musical as being “full of emotional undertones”, wants to deliver a piece that audiences will be in love with. Pretty has been dancing since age five. He won gold in his first competition two years later in Martinique at the Caribbean Youth Festival as part of the Westbury Primary School’s dancers under Ife Harris.
He ventured into calypso in high school, put dancing on the back-burner and joined a percussion group under the tutelage of Wayne “Poonka” Willock.
“My mum turned me on to musicals such as Grease, Fame and Flashdance,” he recalled. “I would start making up routines.” By age 16 he had formed his own group and was dancing professionally for bands, artistes and the hotel circuit. He applied to “a million schools overseas” to hone his craft. “My mum told me to check out Alvin Hailey Dance Theatre in New York,” he said. “Jeanne Scott from American Airlines gave me a ticket and I went for auditions in the summer of 1995.
“I went to auditions for eight straight days and turned back at the door each day. I was so scared. The last day I did a solo piece to a krosfyah soca song and was given the nod.”
Pretty returned home to raise funds. He praises Sheron Trotman [“also a past student and a legend at Alvin Hailey”] who gave him dance classes in preparation for the gruelling four-year programme.
Certified in dance, Pretty was back in Barbados in 2001 and immediately started doing choreography for artistes Rupee and Lil’ Rick.
In 2002 he was on TV doing dance routines and his group Fuh Real Dancers was being booked for several event. That same year he was hired by songstress Toni Norville and started touring – from Cuba to Toronto.
“I did style and choregraphy for Toni Norville and travelled extensively with her,” he said. “She was a big influence to me.”
He also opened for international acts such as Roberta Flack, Boyz II Men, Norah Jones and Ja Rule. In Late 2004 he started working with Rihanna – he grew up two houses from hers in Westbury, St Michael – doing choreography and dance.
“I was in Jamaica with Toni and got a call,” he remarked. “ I went straight to New York and worked on (Rihanna’s) Pon De Replay video and other songs.”
Pretty moved on to working with other artistes and while in New York in 2005 saw the return of musicals. “I said OK, this looks like something I feel comfortable doing now,” he told EASY.
“I am going to write a musical. I came up with the name first – Love, Life and Happy Endings – and wrote the script based on the name.”
Every night he would sit in a café with a notebook and rework the script.
Pretty is now based primarily in New York City and is working on trying to “create my own piece of space . . . create my own legend”.
As the face of the project, he has hired a brand manager and is looking for a publicist to do promotions.
Pretty wants to bring a Caribbean feel to the musical and since he grew up listening to soca music in Barbados and Trinidad, where his dad is from, he wants to incorporate that music into the show.“
I want to bring a Crop Over feel to Harlem,” he explains. “There will be an ultimate Barbadian gala after.”
Dubbing his musical “Sex and the City for the stage”, Pretty says he has big plans to take the local media to Harlem for the gala but funding is an issue.
“There is limited access to funds right now,” he admits. “Except for the Barbados Tourism Authority and the National Cultural Foundation being receptive, the most I am getting is a lot of meetings and talks, but nothing concrete as yet.”
But Pretty has found some real-life Bajan heroes in the ”small men are who are there for me – from the fish vendor to Andrew Daniel from Weisers who lets me have meetings at his restaurant … to Omar Juman who accommodates me at Coral Mist Beach Hotel, to Matthew Ashby and Lisle Warner who has been doing collaboration on posters with me,” he pointed out.
The launch of the musical under the Barbados to Broadway banner was three weeks ago and Pretty brought in celebrity Amber Rose for the event.“
Amber is still raving about the island and the people and hopes to be back soon,” he reported. “This is major exposure for the island.”
He is also working on doing a collaboration with Amber with a local jewelrry house on a line.
Pretty has more aces up his sleeve and over the coming weeks before the opening night in Harlem he is working on more exposure for the island and for his musical.So stay tuned to the Trevor Pretty Movement.