Cultural Outreach: a performer’s perspective


Pictured: Ryan Newman performing fusion tap dance

Stir, stir.. dive and dip, the words of movements from lip to hip.
We speak culture, we see culture, we need culture, we be culture.

Showplace grew a couple inches this past weekend, you could have sworn the roof was raised along with the standards.

Out of ashes came the smoke: lights, cameras, vibrations. Dozens reincarnated the breath of their ancestors, screaming air into heritage, raising every hair up the spine. Feel the appeal to theatrical zeal. Here, you will find one performer’s story is revealed.

Phantom of the Opera became fandom for the opera. Pulling the strings to the communal jig, the seats became stage as performer swapped spots with spectator.

In this cultural melting pot, we immersed into one cauldron, bubbling and bouncing to the same beat. Some were born to shine, others to sit back, relax and appreciate the flame. On this day, we all found our space.

Was I born to dance? Eh, hard to call. It’s a matter of fact – after this weekend – that I was definitely born to make the attempt. “A for effort,” stamp it on my back. Forehead beaming red: I sweat bullets while shooting for the stars. Best believe it; you gotta trade the shame for the fame.

Leaping along with team TURSA, like a leprechaun on payday, and right in time for St. Paddy’s celebrations. Pot O’ gold dazzled before my very eyes, blinded by the light. Wee bit of a costume malfunction as a toe sliced through one sensitive ballet slipper.

Couldn’t daunt how adorable we all looked prancing around that performers’ playpen. Oh yes, we kicked things off with a bang.

Curtain calling me backstage to change, I prepared for numero dos. This time taking a trip up Lake Tanganyika, you saw the tip of the iceberg. Oh-na-na, we whined (except for me), and we grind (I had my moments), our way through time. Feeling my place, as the only lad amongst a group of lovely ladies, I wore that cloth as a badge of honour.

Indeed, my mother saw both the best, and the worst, of her son’s movements in this piece. Later, I was to redeem myself.

From inception, whether it be swerving to Soca or bumping to Bollywood, I always clap to the call of my ancestors, I always march to O’Sullivan’s drum. My Celtic roots resonate into my very being.

Familiarizing myself with other cultures has made me more Irish than ever before. Bagpipes break open my voice box, crack every rib in the cage, clasping my core as these lungs beat to that of the heart. Sending shockwaves through each vein, vibrations penetrate each nerve. Electricity; emotion; ecstasy.

I am awake. By the very call of my creation, I rise to the challenge, by the tune. All stress withheld throughout the eight weeks of me teaching myself to tap dance was stomped out on stage and thrown at the audience. Feet of flames burned self-doubt to ash.

Finally, Intermission: peace, quiet, thoughts, silence.

Yeah right! We were the noise, and as act one-performers made their way to the balcony, another wave prepared for show time. Enough Nutri-Grain bars to keep energized, enough water to avoid cramping up, enough laughter to calm the nerves.

Pockets of performers mediated between anxiety and boredom, meditating, concentrating. Months became minutes, rehearsals became reality. Here we go, one last round.

As I stood there, hands gripped upon suspenders, glaring into the arching rays, I felt life in that light. Words, each and every syllable, ringing off the jaw of Sam – Mrs. Right – Banton, struck me.

Shivers down my spine, grabbed the baton, caressed by the warmth of Jennifer Fernando’s palm. Culture catapulted us into humanity. We are all part of one race: the human race.

Quick switch and down to the boogey. Ou-wee, did our fusion ever hit hard under the spell of that Affribean rhythm. Amped-up became rowdy, we went straight bonkers. Popping to the floor, bopping to the groove, swinging back and forth. Cool, fluid, loose. A couple goofballs pealed and revealed – eh, you know it’s no party without TACSU!

Finale: and you know I’m a proud Vice President. Lego SAAT, we are back! Fifty per cent dance, 50 per cent drama, Bollywood brought us to another level. Bhangra stripped the floors and flipped the tables.

At the end of it all, six performances total, this little lad was drained. Until we brought out the drums! Hundreds of us sang and danced our way into the lounge and throughout the night.

My review can barely be put into words. Faith is a virtue: Michelle Ann, Mama Rashid, Shivani Patel, some of the greatest ladies in my life, instilled that in me. You cannot buy trust. Whatever I did to earn this from them made me a better dancer, if not a better man. Our memories, will neither be forsaken, nor forgotten.

This is simply one story of Cultural Outreach, and this phantom will never be a ghost of the past.

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