Ballet Creole’s dance triumph

Soulful Messiah – a holiday tradition
By Judith lezama Charles

Growing up in the Caribbean and listening to Handel’s Messiah meant first and foremost that the countdown to Christmas and the holiday season was imminent. This was a special time, a joyful and religious experience for many.

Patrick Parson, Artistic Director and Choreographer, Ballet Creole
Patrick Parson, Artistic Director and Choreographer, Ballet Creole

Last weekend at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto’s own Ballet Creole under the artistic direction of its founder, the dynamic Trinidad- born, Canadian-based choreographer Patrick Parson led his company and audience on a spiritual journey through the dance work, Soulful Messiah adapted to the music of composer Qunicy Jones.

The company is celebrating its 25th anniversary (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015), a milestone for Caribbean and Black dance in Canada.

Handel’s Messiah remains part of a religious music tradition in Trinidad, one where classical and chorale groups ranging from school choirs to church choirs execute and master this uplifting piece of music.

This tradition goes back as far as the 1960’s when steelband orchestras were first introduced in church. Highlanders was the first steel orchestra to perform in the Trinity Cathedral in 1965.

Classical music was made popular because of the popularity of the Bomb music competition.

Handel’s Messiah Every valley, shall be Exalted remains up to today the steelband piece that remained the longest on a local radio station.

And the tradition goes on … as the internationally acclaimed Carnival Messiah, a theatrical masterpiece created by yet another Caribbean artist, Dr. Geraldine Connor  toured extensively throughout Britain and Europe in the late 90’s and up until her untimely passing in 2011. Parson, like Connor, has Britain high on his bucket list, once he completes the 16 movements, which will place Soulful Messiah in the category of a full- length ballet.

A great accomplishment for this choreographer who is fast following in the footsteps of his mentor and teacher, the late, great Astor Johnson of the Repertory Dance Theatre of Trinidad and Tobago.

Yuhala Muy Garcia, a principal dancer in the Ballet Creole Company spiritual presentation of Soulful Messiah.
Yuhala Muy Garcia, a principal dancer in the Ballet Creole Company spiritual presentation of Soulful Messiah.

“The Messiah oratorio parts shone through with brilliance and exuberance in Quincy Jones’ jazzy arrangement. Each of the dancers was uniquely expressive, with unstoppable energy, in their interpretation of the music,” commented art patron Dorian Wist.

“David Cox was spectacularly exciting and arresting as a virtuoso percussionist, with his front and centre role as a tap dancer, around which the other actions revolved. The often quite different dance elements were quite convincingly integrated into the whole. Furthermore, the lighting was masterful in its creativity and supportive role,” Wist added.

“I would not have thought that so many different harmonious effects could be achieved with a simple spotlighting system.”

We look forward to many more exciting years of Ballet Creole’s creations and wish them the best for 2015.

Photos by Peter Tang

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