Monday, 24 November 2014

GIRL POWER: Dance sensation Renée McDonald brings poise and intellect to her craft

SHOW AND TELL: McDonald, holding a young 'fan', with Dr. L'Antoinette Stines following Sunday's recital at the Little Theatre.

In person, the first thing that strikes you about dancer-choreographer Renée McDonald is her voice. Piercing and distinctive, it reels you into conversation with her, as her limpid does eyes widen with glee and hold you in place. When she expresses herself, you are in in awe of her refined tones, as if she were reared on lambs and literature, her words often peppered with witty repartee and accompanied by a river-wide smile. 

Such vitality, intellect and youthful vim also defines her creative expression as a choreographer with the Company Dance Theatre, and nowhere was this clearer than during Sunday's closing night of the troupe's 2014 season at the Little Theatre. 

McDonald offered "Divulgence," a fast-paced, moody and downright gripping examination of young womanhood and mortality that left audience members breathless. The vociferous applause that greeted the piece, which closed the first half, was the icing on the cake for McDonald, and the kind of encouragement that can keep a young creative genius' spirits lifted. "Working on this piece was very special for me, because it explores the personal choices each girl has to make, and that is something that I've never explored before. So it was very different for me. Very intense at times," reflects the 25-year-old budding choreographer. 

At intervals during our post-show interview, kudos arrived from admirers like the NDTC's Marisa Benain and Dr. L'Antoinette Stines, who quipped "Choreographers are born," while giving Renée a job-well-done pat on the back. 

All her life Renée McDonald has had an intense affair with the performing arts, the dance world in particular, but when it came to choosing her future career path, the legal profession won out. A Campion College alumna, Renee is presently in her second year at UWI's law school with about three more to go. And before law school, she completed a first degree in marketing. 

Is it hard balancing the books with her commitments as ballet mistress of a prominent Jamaican dance company? "It's extremely difficult," she admits laughing. "I've definitely had to improve on my time management but now that the season is over, it's books, books, books." 

McDonald, who plans to practise entertainment and intellectual property law, described being in a dance troupe as diverse and demanding as the Tony Wilson-led company as living with a cool little family in which she can still maintain her her identity as a fiercely talented individual. "The company is my home, really. It allows me to represent Mr. Wilson's style, while still being myself," she says. "Everything I do comes from a passionate place, so I try at all times to just be myself." 

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