“COCO Dance Festival begins” at Queen’s Hall

Newspaper: Newsday
Date Published: Friday 3rd October, 2014

The 2014 installment of the Contemporary Choreographers’ Collective (COCO) Dance Festival takes place this weekend at the Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s. The festival, founded in 2009 by dance professionals Sonja Dumas, Nancy Herrera, Nicole Wesley and Dave Williams will present to Trinidad and Tobago a diverse cast of selected choreographers from Trinidad and Tobago, the United States of America and Canada.

The festival opens this evening at 6:30 pm with a programme that includes the annual COCO Awards which celebrates those who excel in several different areas of dance. It continues tomorrow at the Queen’s Hall venue with an outdoor/indoor spatial presentation beginning at 6:30pm and a show from 7:30 pm and ends on Sunday with a similar outdoor/indoor spatial presentation at 5:30 pm and show time at 6:30pm.Visual artist, Akuzuru would be doing the spatial presentations on both nights.

The guest cast features New York’s Battery Dance Company with support from the Embassy of the United States of America, the University of South Florida’s Dance Programme and the University Dance Company (UDC) of Texas Tech University (TTU) with support from the TTU’s College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Successful applicants chosen by COCO’s screening committee include Akuzuru, Brittany Williams, Deliece Knights, Jacob Cino, Jelae Stroude-Mitchell, Jillene Forde, Juan-Pablo Alba-Dennis, Kinesha Charleau, Sade Chance and Santee Smith. In COCO’s partnership with the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition via its community-based outreach initiative, COCO in the Community, finalists from the Best Village competition are selected to perform. This year, Ibis Dance Company directed by Sherma Burke, New Edition directed by Jodie Daniel and Eh Beh Oui Don Don directed by Kizzy Murray were selected. To round out the festival, the works of two of COCO’s founders, Sonja Dumas and Dave Williams, will be presented.

In addition to performances, the community-based outreach initiative, COCO in the Community, will offer a series of master dance classes facilitated by both local and visiting dance experts tomorrow and Sunday. Training will be offered in contemporary modern, contemporary Amerindian, Zena Rommett Floor-Barre and Modern African-Caribbean techniques. There will also be a discussion entitled “Talking Dance with Dave Williams” on Sunday.

According to a media release, COCO’s focus is on creating a space for contemporary, post- modern and experimental dance. “COCO has revolutionised Trinidad and Tobago’s dance landscape by steering the development of collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to the production of art, performance and lecture. Through relationships fostered with the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT’s) and the University of the West Indies’ (UWI’s) dance programmes, the festival nurtures and mentors budding choreographers by providing a professional platform for performance and experimentation supported by direction in the development of choreography,” the release stated. Since its inception, COCO has showcased the works of its founders alongside those of dance and creative arts practitioners from multiple disciplines and training centres across Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Canada and the USA, the release stated.

COCO’s calendar of events began last Monday when the organisation teamed up with Alliance Francais to present “L’Alliance fête la Danse”, a series of film nights that ended yesterday. This free series featured four French dance films including Les Fables A La Fontaine, Eldorado Preljocaj, Battuta and Blanche Neige.