The Elle NYTT dance studio, which offers training in ballet, dancehall, hip hop and soca, has staged two productions aimed at showcasing the diverse abilities of its tutors and students. Its third production, En Route, premiering July 12 at the Little Carib Theatre, will take a different approach, holding the spotlight on another of the company's specialties, modern and contemporary dance."This time we wanted to show the more creative side and the more artistic side (of the company). We have really strong modern/contemporary choreographers," said Elle director and founder La Shaun Prescott, who dances and choreographs for soca performer Machel Montano, but who has experience in more traditional styles through training and performing with La Chapelle, Metamorphosis and other companies. She's currently working on a master's degree in dance at New York University.
Other En Route performers have similar resum�s. Delton Frank studied ballet, modern dance and jazz with La Chapelle and the Caribbean School of Dancing. Megan Navarro, who made the suggestion that modern dance should be the focus of Elle's third production, also studied with the Caribbean School and completed the School of Toronto Dance Theatre professional training programme.Candice Ho Wong dances with Kes the Band but has contemporary training and experience with Astor Johnston Repertory Dance Theatre and the Trinity Dance Theatre. Anika Marcelle trained at London Contemporary Dance School.The pieces in En Route are meant to illustrate emotional experiences at various stages in the performers' lives."Life is a journey for all of us. We all go through the same things at different times," reads the En Route event page on Facebook."And even the company itself is also on a journey," said Prescott, further explaining the rationale behind the name."Because we are developing as choreographers and as dancers."
Elle started in 2007 as Elle Incorporated. As the company's reach expanded to include New York a name change became necessary. Prescott had taken up an offer to lead soca-dancing workshops in the city. "I think it's a step forward in terms of getting soca as a dance recognised internationally," she said, "and I think it's also a way of promoting Trinidad culture outside of T&T."
Prescott has video from her soca workshops on her YouTube channel, and a look at any one of them shows that soca dancing can be as intricate as any other form of dance. Nevertheless, Prescott welcomes the opportunity to show off the full capabilities of performers audiences may have dismissed as just attractive backups to soca, dancehall and hip hop artists."This is going to be an opportunity for people that may not have known us in that light, that only know us in the light of dancing with artists on stage, to say, 'Hey, they can actually do other things,'" she said.
Elle dancers' involvement in popular dance forms provides at least one advantage."There have been modern and contemporary companies in Trinidad for years, and they've been putting on shows every year," said Prescott. "But it would only be people who are in the arts fraternity who would know about it. We tap into an audience that is far extended beyond the arts community."
There are other aspects of En Route that will make it different from similar productions."The choreographers themselves have such unique styles" that each stands out, said Prescott. "You see a piece by Anika Marcelle, and you know that is distinctly her style. It's different from anything else in Trinidad. Delton also has a lot of international experience that brings a different perspective to the table."Many of the pieces will be "very personal," said Prescott. One of the three pieces she will be performing was based on her experience in New York after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the US east coast last year and left many in the city without electricity and water for weeks."I've never experienced anything like that," said Prescott. "In their own life [members of the audience] would have gone through struggles, they would have gone through sacrifices, so that when they look at the piece they could identify."The response has been good since Elle started to promote En Route, said Prescott. This may be a reflection of the increased attention and respect dance has been getting in T&T."I feel like with dance in Trinidad we really need to educate people, but I feel we're getting there," she said. "They've introduced a dance programme at UTT. And there are a lot of students looking at it as a viable career option."The En Route Facebook page was only put up one day before the interview, and already, said Prescott, "There's a buzz. There's an excitement. That is very refreshing for me. I feel that we're going to live up to people's expectations."
En Route will run for three days at the Little Carib Theatre, corner White and Roberts streets, Woodbrook, starting July 12. For more information, check Elle NYTT's Facebook page or call 788- 3553 or 391-3553.