After 50 years of independence, nobody dances

Published: Monday | August 6, 2012 Comments 0
Marlon Simms in Keith Fagan's 'Intransit'. - Contributed
Marlon Simms in Keith Fagan's 'Intransit'. - Contributed

Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer

Edna Manley College struggles for pupils to carry on traditions

The Edna Manley College of The Visual and Performing Arts has a school of dance. That school is finds itself scraping to find dancers to fill its matriculation quota.

According to international dancer and lecturer at Edna Manley, Marlon Simms, dancing is not seen as a traditional profession in Jamaica, even after 50 years of contributions from entities like The National Dance Theatre Company.

"Dancing is not a traditional career and it does not have a strong offering in the secondary-school system where children can be exposed to dancing and the different career opportunities available," Simms said.

He said that Edna Manley College has numerous programmes geared at educating and training dancers in an effort to develop their craft and make them more marketable.


"We have several programmes, ranging from associate degrees, bachelor's [degrees], and even a studio certificate. So you don't have to have five CXCs, you can still get through. These programmes were designed to meet the needs of the students," Simms said.

"We want to train them with the relevant education to become performers, choreographers and educators. There are different arms of dancing, so if you don't wish to dance, there is the option of producing dance events.

Simms believes one of the problems faced by Edna Manley College - as it relates to getting better matriculation rates - is the fact that the cost of education can be very expensive. He also pointed out that the school provides scholarships which students can apply for.

"The price is on par with other universities, but there are organisations that provide funding like the Students' Loan Bureau. We have a payment plan as well as scholarships which are sponsored by private-sector organisations," he said.


The lecturer believes improvement is possible, but that the interest of potential dancers must be piqued from the secondary-school level.

"The secondary schools don't provide children enough information about careers. They have a CXC course that is offered, but other things should be considered - like proper facilities and a dance teacher," he said.

Simms also advised that persons who want to become professional dancers should make that decision early, citing that the degree programme can take as long as four years, and some students tend to quit before the completion. Training can be very vigorous, Simms explained.

He also revealed that the Edna Manley College has embarked on campaigns to improve its reach to potential students.

"We have performances at the school that we provide outside of the college via outreach programmes. We have a marketing department and a career day, when we invite the high schools to the college to talk about programmes," he said.

The college has also partnered with 'Dancin' Dynamites' and has given scholarships to participants of the annual dancing competition.

Simms also thinks parents should provide moral support for their children even when their career choice is not traditional.

"Parents need to go through the orientation process as well because their children need their support. Every parent will have an idea what they want their children to become and want a traditional role, but this is what your child wants to do so you have to listen and understand your children. The market is challenging and some parents are just not willing to let their children take that risk, but there are various jobs available in dancing. Many have come back to Edna Manley to teach - even the principal is a graduate of the college," Simms said.

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