Young Dancer wants to take the Artform up a Notch
By: Reginald Andrew
A young St. Lucian dancer is keen on taking this artform to a higher level.
Shatoya Jn. Baptiste has been a dance performer from an early age and now that she is about to graduate in this field of arts, she wants to foster broader economic prospects for dancers in the region.
Jn. Baptiste, 24, is currently a student at Towson University pursuing studies in the field of Theatre Design and Production and will graduate in December. She wants to utilise her skills to help develop the artforn locally and regionally.
She began dancing with the CAM Dancers in the early stages before moving on to the Silver
Shadow Dancers and spent at least 12 years with the group, before departing to the USA to pursue studies about two years ago.
Speaking to the Mirror she said that though it has been a challenging journey, she is persistent with her pursuits
“It was with Silver Shadow that I gained my technique, that I gained the confidence, that I did my first solo. It was a lot of firsta with Silver Shadow,” she said.
Jn. Baptiste added: “It was also my first Carifesta in Haiti, and again it’s like a door keeps opening each time. When I went to Haiti a door opened for me to teach at the Comprehensive Secondary and at the St. Mary’s College. It is because of teaching there that I grew to love the arts even more.”
Jn. Baptiste credits the Silver Shadow dance group and more especially group leader Barry George for providing the platform for her to nurture and develop her skills. She said that veteran dancer Christine Samuel also played the ‘mother role’ and acted as a ‘guiding angel’ in influencing her career in dance and mentored her during an 18-month job stint as a young dance teacher.
“I have two goals,” Jn. Baptiste says. “My personal goal is to build a theatre in St. Lucia that is fully equipped, as well as, to build a dance studio that is fully equipped. However, my short term goals and with my dance brand called SHR …I want to break down barriers.”
She feels that there is too much tension amongst dance groups on island and since, “we have so many dance groups in St. Lucia, we should all be learning together and we should all be lifting each other and I don’t think there should be any tension.”
Jn. Baptiste adds: “I feel that we should learn from each other. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and we need to build each other’s strengths and help resolve each other’s weaknesses.”
The young dancer looks forward to establishing a wider social network amongst dance groups in the region.
She asserted: “I want for one day there will be an association where dancers could just travel back and forth throughout the Caribbean at little to no cost, and just sharing each other’s knowledge or just performing at different places, as well as getting to network a little more.”
As part of the annual Nobel Laureate Festival, Jn. Baptiste hosted the second ‘The SHR Experience 2020’ a full-day cultural dance exchange workshop focusing on sharing dance knowledge and strengthening networks in the performing arts community, acting as a building block for dancers in St Lucia.
The workshop, held at the Sportivo at Rodney Heights,featured three international choreographers along with St Lucian dancers Jaimie Forde (Helen Folk Dancers) and Gideon Ambrose (Silver Shadow).
‘SRH’ – is the title of Jn. Baptiste’s dance brand, which she says comes from a nickname that her friends called her.
What was the response like to the workshop and what sort of feedback did she get from the participants?
“Basically, the SRH experience is about sharing knowledge and gaining experience,” she said, adding that Forde shared his experience in local dance with the visitors who appreciated the lessons learnt. The most important part of that is the international choreographers took part. And so now they know a bit about St. Lucia’s dance.”