The COCO Dance Festival each year showcases established and emerging artists in the T&T dance world. In addition, this year, young artists with Caribbean roots were also invited to showcase their works.
Each year, the COCO awards are given to shine a light on the achievements of dance practitioners as well as supporters who have contributed to the development of dance in T&T.
The awards are presented in three categories – Young Mavericks, Trailblazers and Vanguards.
This year’s Young Mavericks awards went to choreographers Sade Chance and Juan-Pablo Alba-Dennis. The Trailblazers Awards went to dance photographer Karen Johnstone, Marlon Phillip of the Aster Johnson Repertory Dance Theatre and the 3Canal group. The Vanguard awards went to dancer and choreographer Hazel Franco, the Nrityanjali Theatre which teaches eastern classical dance, and the Bentley Potter School of western classical dance.
The Coco Choreographers award, given to the COCO participant who demonstrated innovative and/or consistent choreographic practice both within and outside of the COCO Dance Festival, went to Jacob Cino.
The pieces on display at the Festival were indicative of the talent present in the T&T dance community.
Reality, by Best Village Group Eh Ben Oui Don Don, choreographed by Roxanne De Souza, was a mixture of dance, song, spoken word poetry and skit, taking on the issue of absentee fathers in a poignant manner.
Borrowed Time, choreographed by Jillene Forde and performed by the Shift Contemporary Dance Company, showcased an element of longing set to a strong rhythmic beat.
Only Stars are Perfect, choreographed by Nicole Wesley and performed by dancers Wesley and Michelle Nance, was a breathtaking mixture of dance and film. The dancers wore red and performed in front showing black and white closeups of the dance they were performing.
Profilin’ was performed by Trent D. Williams Jr., a guest performer and Professor of Dance at the University of Florida. The dancer embodied the paranoid and schizophrenic mindset by many men of colour in the US, as Williams stripped down and crawled across the stage before experiencing an almost cathartic ending. Williams said “I choreographed the piece in 2011 right before the Trayvon Martin shooting and other incidents of that sort. I thought of how I as a black man have been profiled in different ways and stopped by police for no apparent reason sometimes. Then I’m let go because I work at the University of Florida, but imagine if I didn’t have the credentials or wasn’t a professor, what actually would happen. So this work was created from that standpoint of trying to figure out what exactly profiling means, from interviews with different black males and trying to understand their perspectives and how they have been profiled by police and things of that sort.”
Choreographer Jacob Cino presented his piece, IdenTTY/where you from?, via a film of three dancers moving through different environments, including forests, beaches and fields while performing stylized movements to various forms of music, including Chinese, Indian and African rhythms. Cino said the film questioned the identity crisis experienced by many migrants.
Fractal, by Jillene Forde and performed by the Shift Contemporary Dance Company, evoked a longing for freedom, caught in glimpses as the dancers ran through spotlights.
Another guest performance by T&T-born, England resident Davin King expressed a struggle for freedom as King fought to escape from the chains he was wrapped in, which he achieves in the end.
Choreographer Sade Chance presented two soul-stirring pieces titled I know what it feels like to lose, followed by I’m here. The dances take the viewer through the feeling of loss, including the use of funereal music, followed by an affirmation of life in the presence of death.
The final dance of the night, Te Odiero, was performed by Spanish group HURyCAN, featuring dancers Candelaria Antelo and Arthur Bernard Bazin, winners of several European choreography awards. Their routine made it easy to see why the duo had won these awards as it portrayed perfectly a young couple in love who then begin to quarrel. The dance began with Latin choreography, followed by a portrayal of a comedy of errors leading to a comediesque staging of what would be a knockdown dragout fight in real life. It then evolved into a portrayal of making up through a vaudevillian tumbling routine and eventually the woman ends up using the man as a throne.
Williams praised the Festival for its programming. “This performance is varied in different genres of contemporary dance from funny to powerful to things that make you cry. It’s an evening of all types of levels of emotions in this program and I think it’s amazing that COCO selects choreographers who are tackling issues that are surrounding happiness and sadness and different things in the world.”