Wednesday, 26 March 2014

LEAPS AND BOUNDS: Imaginative and intriguing, the University Dance Society advances from strength to strength

RHYTHM OF LIFE: Eye-popping scenes from the UDS in performance at the Philip Sherlock Centre on the Mona Campus.

"Our hope for the society, and for this season actually, is to raise the standard and the reputation of the UDS to a whole new level. We want to be recognized and considered as a major dance company in Jamaica." This coming from a clearly elated Chelsea Brown, alluding to the promising future of the Mona-based University Dance Society, which she currently serves as president.

Though the UDS is predominantly made up of student artists and energetic teenagers, the group is no green thing, having been conceived as the University Dance and Gymnastics Society way back in 1971, subsequently rebranded the University Dance Society. Very much like the Edna Manley College's School of Dance, a large number of the awesome talents now representing the mainstream companies across the island (and abroad) got their start in the UDS, which has swelled to over 140 members split among beginners, intermediates and advanced-level performers.

Only a week after sharing the stage with the likes of Movements Dance Company, L'Acadco, Seattle's Ashani and the NDTC, for the 2014 Jamaica Dance Umbrella showcase, Brown and the crew returned to the mainstage of the Philip Sherlock Centre to unveil -- and make splash with -- their new season of dance (the company's 43rd!) evocatively dubbed "Floetry: Moving through the Antilles."

Weaving together strands of the theatrical, live music elements and even spoken word, the presentation featured appearances by UDS' campus cousins UDAS and the UWI Pop Society, among others, to bring to audiences a wonderfully vibrant and youthfully energetic take on West Indian realities then and now.

"Our goal was to fuse all these elements together to depict the Caribbean through the ages, through movement and its flow from the past, from slavery to the present day," explains Brown, 18, a "half Bahamian, half Jamaican" Medical Sciences junior. "We wanted the season to allow people to remember where we're coming from, to acknowledge and give thanks for the present and to enhance the potential for the future and make a difference. Because, truth be told, the future is the only thing we can influence."

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