Aisha Comissiong’s resumé is one you would expect of a seasoned performer, not someone just out of school last year.
In addition to graduating as valedictorian of her class with a Bachelor’s degree in the fine arts of dance performance and choreography with First Class honours from the Edna Manley College of Visual Arts in Jamaica, she earned a scholarship to the Randolph Academy or the Performing Arts in Toronto, Canada.
Along with two bronze medals, she also has two gold medals from the National Independence Festival Of Creative Arts (NIFCA).
Last year Aisha won the Prime Minister’s Award of $35 000 for the choreographed piece Remembering Forgotten Souls, performed by Dancin’ Africa, as well as the award for Most Promising Choreographer and the CBC Documentation Award for dance.
This year she copped a second NIFCA?gold medal for her choreography of the dance piece HERstory: Chapter 21, also performed by Dancin’ Africa. She also won the CBC Documentation Award for dance again.
At 22 years old, Aisha is on top of the world and she has no plans of coming down anytime soon. From the time she was young, Aisha knew she wanted to be a dancer.
“I have always loved dance. I have been part of NIFCA as a performer from about nine years old. In 2005, when I was 15, I was choreographer and also part of a young all-female dance crew called Xclusive in NIFCA. I decided I wanted to pursue dance seriously when I was 16,” she said.
The feeling after winning a second gold medal, Aisha admitted, was nothing short of amazing.
“The feeling was surreal to be honest. To win two gold medals consecutively felt amazing. But as I always tell the dancers, the aim is not to go in there with this gold medal on your mind; the award is just the icing on the cake and should be secondary.”
And to think she was ready to pull the piece for this year.
“After much convincing I had a change of heart.”
Aisha is still basking in the glory of all her successes and understandably so. The only one to graduate from Edna Manley College with First Class honours, she is very proud and pleased with the successful completion and execution of her final-year show Through My Mind’s Eye, which she conceptualized and choreographed herself.
“It was the last final-year dance show to be staged and the feedback from the examiners was beyond wonderful! They all encouraged me to restage it as a paid show and I have actually been approached to submit a proposal to do so within this academic year of 2012-2013. So who knows, maybe I will be debuting my own show in Jamaica in the not-too-distant future,” she proudly revealed.
She also received five individual awards at her graduation.
“The Principal’s Award for Most Outstanding Individual In The Performing Arts Schools, The Bert Rose Award for Most Outstanding Performer, The Rex Nettleford Award for Most Outstanding Performer And Choreographer, The School Of Dance Award for Most Outstanding All-round Individual, and The Humanities And Education Award for Most Outstanding Researcher,” she proudly stated.
Aisha admitted: “I am really driven to accomplish whatever goals I set my sights on. I am a very passionate person when it comes to things I create because I see anything I create as an extension of me. I will confess that I can be bossy at times but, nonetheless, it’s generally because I have the best interest of everyone at heart.”
Confessing that her journey at the Edna Manley College was a “rough” experience, she said: “My biggest challenge at Edna Manley College would have to be the fact that I decided to take on the challenge of finishing my degree a year early (she completed a four-year programme in three years).
“It was generally all work and no play,” Aisha said, adding that she left the college with “a heightened sense of integrity as an artist, choreographer and performer”.
This self-proclaimed overachiever and perfectionist, as her friends and family call her, is ready to continue her success and has decided to continue her training in dance in Jamaica.
“Since completing my degree, I have decided to continue to pursue my dance studies/training in Jamaica as a company member of the highly acclaimed L’Acadco: A United Caribbean Dance Force, under the artistic directorship of the internationally acclaimed Dr L’Antoinette Osunide Stines.
“Aside from pocketing some travelling and performing experience, I plan to supplement my first degree with a Master’s and PhD in due time.”
Aisha, who dances for the band Soca Kartel and is a member of Dance Place and Dancin’ Africa, has the support of her parents David and Sally Comissiong and siblings Najuma and Jutta Phillips, and for her that is enough.
“My family is extremely supportive although it took some longer than others to finally warm up to the idea. Without a doubt, the most supportive are my father and my sister.
“Unknown to most, just like last year, my father was at all the rehearsals and stages of the NIFCA competition keeping me up-to-date, giving me feedback, suggestions and so on,” she said.
While the market for dance in Barbados is not very big, Aisha has her sights set on changing that.
“My fundamental career goal is to play a significant role by helping to take dance in Barbados to a much higher level and to secure international recognition for Barbadian dance/dancers whilst contributing to the fostering of a Caribbean dance movement.
“Wherever all of this places me in the greater scheme of things is ultimately what I want to become.”