Tuesday 19 March, 2019

US Embassy and Michele Rollins champion the arts in Jamaica

From left to right: U.S. Embassy Counselor for Public Affairs Jeremiah Knight; Michele Rollins, US businesswoman and owner of Rose Hall Developments and Marissa Benain founder of Plie for the Arts

From left to right: U.S. Embassy Counselor for Public Affairs Jeremiah Knight; Michele Rollins, US businesswoman and owner of Rose Hall Developments and Marissa Benain founder of Plie for the Arts

The U.S. Embassy based in Kingston is making a concerted effort to promote the arts in Jamaica and will be spearheading a number initiatives to that effect.

Between August 28-30, this year, the U.S. Embassy in collaboration with Plie for the Arts, will be bringing to Jamaica a 25-dance member delegation which will include Misty Copeland (first female  African-American Principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre) and Desmond Richardson ( first African-American Principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre). 

As well as putting on a number of performances, the program will see the U.S. trained dance professionals conducting workshops and seminar sessions, presenting various dance styles and technique in ballet, jazz and modern contemporary.

The patron for this performing arts endeavour is Michele Rollins of Rose Hall, a longstanding philanthropist and tourism leader in Jamaica.

In an interview with Loop News, Rollins said: “This event will tell Jamaica that the United States is very interested in the arts and we Americans who have been here forever, are excited about joining America and Jamaica , particularly with our talent coming to the Caribbean for the first time.

“For me, I am proud and privileged to be an honorary patron for anything the U.S. Embassy does. I love that it gives kids an opportunity to get scholarships and go to the Alvin Ailey school and perform. It’s all good. The arts are for the soul and we can’t do enough of it.”

Rollins added that it was no surprise to her that Misty Copeland would get behind these scholarships in Jamaica as the famed ballet dancer herself was a beneficiary of the Coca-Cola Scholarship and the American Ballet Theatre Scholarship.

Without these scholarships, she might not be where she is today.

The Rose Hall boss said that she can’t wait to see Copeland dance.

U.S. Embassy Counselor for Public Affairs, Jeremiah Knight said that it was a win-win situation, partnering with Marissa Benain of Plie For the Arts.

“This particular event is a part of a larger support of the arts in Jamaica. Last month we had Randy Weston come and participate in International Jazz Day. Next month we celebrate American Caribbean Heritage Month with a film festival.”

“ When Marissa came up with this idea, we felt it aligns perfectly with our support for the arts in Jamaica. Jamaica has a wonderful rich history in the arts. America loves to share its performers and its art forms with the world. The sharing of cultures and the arts is a good way for diplomacy.”

“ I am delighted that Michele Rollins who has resided in Jamaica for many years has agreed to be a patron, “said Knight.

The U.S. Embassy Counselor for Public Affairs made it clear that rather than concentrating on one event like the Fantasia showcase in, Emancipation Park last year, the U.S. Embassy will be hosting a number of events throughout the year that focus on the arts.

“Not everyone can be a dancer or actor but there are many aspects of the arts that have relevance to the economy and the society. Misty is not coming here to just dance – she will also be engaging with Jamaican students and telling her story,” said Knight.

Rollins backed up the Counselor’s sentiment by saying: “Not everyone can be a ballerina. I studied ballet and dance but that was as far as it went. The important thing is to develop your audiences for the future. Even if you are not a prima ballerina or remain in the arts, you are in that audience and appreciate it because you have studied some form of it and are familiar with it.”

A part of Plie’s For the Arts’ mandate is training and development. It looks to encourage proper technique.

The founder of Plie for the Arts, Marissa Benain said: “In Jamaica we have a lot of talented dancers but I have outgrown that saying, ‘raw talent’. It is very important to develop technique. It is time we place the emphasis on finesse. I have trained friends from Jamaica who went to Juilliard, taught at New York University and other top dance schools of the world but we haven’t had that for over twenty years, so I know what we can do.

“Every show that we have, we must give at least two Jamaican dancers scholarships to go to the States. Now, we have given scholarships to go to Complexions. We have to attract dancers at a younger age to enable them to become professionals and they must be made to understand that If this is what I want to do, then I need to know what  I must aspire to. This is where I am; this is where I need to be. For me that’s the most important thing.”

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