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Dance Nation:

Published: 
Monday, April 16, 2012

Every year the Department of Creative and Festival Arts at the University of the West Indies (UWI) puts on a theatrical production that impresses many theatre goers in Trinidad and Tobago. This year, unlike many others, the Department took on the challenge of redefining our nation. The production, entitled Nation Dance: The Pilgrimage, not only sought a definition of what it means to be Trinbagonian, but also sought the values necessary for nation building. A series of eight shows were hosted by various communities across Trinidad and Tobago. The advanced production students of the department attempted to discover a definition by holding shows at Naparima Hill, the Temple in the Sea, Laventille, Golden Lane, Tobago, Pembroke Heritage Park, Tobago, Calvary Hill and at UWI. At these locations each community brought forward the values that contribute to their existence as individuals living in Trinidad and Tobago.  The show ran for three weekends beginning in the middle of March and ending at the beginning of April. According to Ambika Ramdass, who played one of the four ‘pyongs’ in the production, “The process was very challenging, however I learnt a lot more about what Trinidad and Tobago represents.”The ‘pyongs’ essentially represented the ills of society, and through interactions with each of the communities, all four ‘pyongs’. 

Persons attending the production could have gathered that values of respect, togetherness and love were common qualities experienced at each community. It was understood that there are many religious and cultural differences in Trinidad and Tobago; however, the key was to find those commonalities in order for us to collectively respond to them, while respecting our differences.  The show also made heavy social and political commentary of Trinidad and Tobago. The play was set on the island of Mauvais Langue. Mauvais Langue (according to local definition) means ‘bad tongue’, or to ill speak someone. From what was depicted by the production students of the department, they all had very strong views on the current situation of their country. They made many satirical comments on things like the previous State of Emergency. Students stated that it was a “Saving of Our Epidermis”, or in other words “Saving Our Skins”. Even the characters were closely linked to real life political figures, such as Gwo Grandcharge, who took on the role of policing, but quite comically carried a Canadian accent. The show made its conclusion on April 1st, closing its curtains on what was truly a patriotic journey for students, lecturers and the audience. What was learnt was described as invaluable and unique. It is clear that Trinidad and Tobago has many shared values that we all must collectively observe in order for our nation to be a better place.

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