She’s got dance fever
Carol Brathwaite started dancing at the age of seven, going to classes on Saturdays. Now in her late 30s, Carol has turned her hobby into a career, pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, majoring in dance.
All the women in her family are dancers except her mum, and Carol was an active member of Sankofa Productions until tutor Danny “Diallo” Hinds returned to the United States.
“My sister Jackie is also a dancer, along with my aunts and cousins. We all danced with Country Theatre Workshop [as teenagers]. I believe I overheard someone in the family say that my mother wanted to be a dancer herself, but that dream didn’t work out for her. But my going to dance classes also gave her and my dad some needed peace and quiet,” she said, laughing out loud.
Carol’s reason for embracing this creative genre? “I like dancing because it allows me to express myself.” But she almost had to quit the one thing she loved.
In 2000 she suffered a serious back injury that had her literally bent over forward for three months. She felt crippled at times, unable to perform normal functions like sitting or standing for long. She was in constant pain.
“I saw a bone doctor, an acupuncturist, a chiropractor, even alternative doctors. Nothing helped. I taught myself Power Yoga from a book given to me by a frustrated ex-boyfriend that helped heal the injury.”
The injury still lingers, she says, and only returns “with a vengeance” if she pushes herself too hard, which she tries not to do.
“I had to take it down a notch. Before, I used to go full out. Now I probably go six hours a day in all.” If Carol looks familiar, it is because she was also a member of the Almond Beach Hotel dancers for ten years. She also was a back-up dancer at most of the Crop Over events leading up to Kadooment Day. She resigned from the Almond dance group last year and has not done any festival events for the last five. “I had to listen to my mind and body. It was too much for me along with school.”
Her style of dancing is post-modern, which deals with everyday movement, Carol explained.
“Those who watch me carefully as I dance will tell you that I close my eyes [remedy for disaster with other dancers]. When I close my eyes, I see, feel, absorb, release. It works for me. I create my movements from within – from the core. Natural body movements are important to me.
“When I say natural, I mean what comes out in expression without any major technique added to the movement.”
She credits Hinds for being “by far the best dance teacher I have ever experienced in all my years of dancing. He is precise and a demanding teacher. His teaching of West African dance has left a sweet taste in my mouth and I can’t seem to shake the feeling of wanting to perform to live drumming for the rest of my life”.
She also gives credit to the Almond dancers for some of the best performances she has done.
Dance has taught her to focus, she says, and in her final year at UWI, she is focused on a three-year plan to own her own studio. Carol has big plans for her degree and has started the wheels rolling.
Through the National Cultural Foundation, she gives dance classes at primary schools during the week to children aged four to 11. She also teaches in various communities throughout the island.
“I hope to apply my degree to getting youngsters as early as four years old to their early 20s interested in dance. I want to teach them how to express themselves by using their bodies through dance to communicate their issues, happiness, thoughts and dreams.”
Carol knows she still has a lot to learn – there is always that little bit more, she stresses, calling herself her biggest critic.
Even though she has thrown so many hats into the ring, she has taken yet another role: acting. She is also involved in theatre art at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination. She wants to be an actress who dances rather than a dancer who acts, and has already done some plays and music videos.
This is a new experience for her – one that she is loving. She is happy, though, that it involves words, and more importantly, her eyes have to be open.