If you remove the 'd' from drum, what do you have?
The first inaugural Antigua and Barbuda International Folk Dance and Music Festival was held in Antigua & Barbuda from June 25 to July 2, 2018. It is not the first time Antigua & Barbuda has taken the lead in the arts, or even in celebrating folk dance. Although, with the looming threat of civil unrest in Barbuda, this festival saw many victories, as challenges did not thwart the plans of the department of culture.
The Senator within the Ministry of Sports, Culture and National Festivals in Antigua and Barbuda, honourable Daryll Mathew confessed, “I appreciate the art; I am not artistic.” The minister lent a diligent ear to the proposal of a regional dance theatre company, arising from this first inaugural rencontre, clarifying and fortifying the need for a higher quality product for the tourism sector as well.
The candour and vision of the ministry was further emphasized by the permanent secretary within the Antigua, Barbuda Ministry of Sports, Culture and Festival events Mrs. Sarah Stuart-Joseph and Ms Sandra Joseph. The PS made it her duty to attend every event relating to the festival, remarking on the areas for improvement, but lauding the excellence, artistry and professionalism of the technical and artistic displays. Richard Ambrose of Saint Lucia came up for high note in his use of projected video and his dramaturgy in dance at that meeting.
The direction of culture is a serious affair in Antigua & Barbuda. The Director of Culture, Mr. Vaughn Walter M.B.E., himself an avid theatre enthusiast, not only staged a play, but orchestrated that the co-ordination of the festival and amenities met with unparalleled support for the dance festival. His unexpected appearance at the opening ceremony (having moments before, arrived from a Carifesta 2021 planning meeting) lent words of strength, support and an almost battle cry signalling the glory and urgency of arts development within the region. He reassured his subordinates of his commitment to serve the arts: ” I have a heart for culture.”
But it is essentially Mr. Roy Gilbert Laudat, Director of Events within the cultural division, who convinced the overseas tutors to come to Antigua & Barbuda for this inaugural festival. Mr. Laudat’s years of experience, knowledge and work in the arts has taken him all over the world and, though it is a daunting task, he has not waivered in motivating his staff, countrymen, young artistes and others in the region, helping them realize that there is much to gain in ‘perfecting one’s craft’. His invitations extended as far south as Trinidad and Tobago, and as far north as Toronto, Canada.
The intoxication of the dance, the music, the drum whet the entire festival. But one lasting impression will be that of the choreography earthed by Dr. Ian Douglas and a band of dancers. Local dancers of Antigua, Barbuda and tutors including Karen Brookes of Passion de danse and Tavia Hunte of Shiva dance academy, along with Thyanna Sebastien of Elite dancers and some young dancers who participated in the workshop, presented a life-like story.
Look out Caribbean because the ‘Ethnic Folk Arts ensemble’ strips bare, removing the ‘d’, extracting the rum, the essence of Caribbean aesthetics, laying it bare, challenging the audience through sophisticated tableaux and contemporary vocabulary set in traditional musings.
Their next stop is Saint Lucia.
Left to right: Allison Trunzer, Dr. Ian Douglas, Senator Daryll Mathew, Gilbert Laudat, and Richard Ambrose who participated in the first International Folk Dance and Music Festival.