Big Moves with Plié Plié for the Arts

Friday, August 31, 2018

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You can easily remember the first time you saw a stage production. Whether the reaction was goosebumps, tears or side-splitting laughter, the performing arts move us. They also benefit the economy, educate and teach us how to express ourselves. Regardless of the city, garnering support for the arts is always a tedious process. And, due to the indefatigable dedication of Plié for the Arts founder Marisa Benain, Jamaica can boast of being the first Caribbean nation to host world-renowned prima ballerina Misty Copeland.

You may recognise Copeland's name as she created a worldwide media brouhaha in 2015. Copeland broke through the white prima ballerina glass ceiling at the then 76-year American Ballet Company and was named as a principal dancer. The first African-American female dance to do so.

Partnering with the Embassy of the United States of America in Jamaica, the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and Rose Hall Developments principal and arts patron Michele Rollins, Plié for the Arts will mount a two-night sold-out performance starring Copeland alongside local dancers and members of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Complexions co-founder and co-artistic director Desmond Richardson is, too, on the island. The support of this momentous occasion has been great and, according to Benain, “we have around 18 sponsors for this event” — some being life-long relationships and others that she has nurtured since last October when she embarked on the preparatory planning stages for the event.

On Wednesday, August 29, United States Embassy's Chargé d'Affaires Eric Khant hosted a reception at his home as the official welcome to Copeland and Richardson to kick off this special Plié for the Arts event. In his welcome address, Khant humorously noted the similarities between dance and diplomatic relations. “We have to tiptoe around, find a good balance to walk a fine line and sometimes make bold moves like grand jeté.”

As eager as the attendees were to see Copeland perform, the evening's entertainment was provided by Tessanne Chin, Wayne Marshall and The Ashe Company.

In her misty-eyed address, Copeland shared her commitment to using her platform to educate and inspire young people. Richardson expressed how appreciative he and Complexions were to be in Jamaica at this landmark event. Rollins surprised the dancers with tokens of appreciation including rose-shaped soaps in the national colours and Ralph Lauren Jamaica-scented candles.

Seeing such a rally around the performing arts in Jamaica was, in a word, phenomenal. Many may not have the adroitness, nimbleness and talent of professional dancers. However, as Khant noted: “Dance is the finest expression known to unite people of diverse cultures nations and backgrounds.”


— Vaughn Gray

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