Stretch Yourself

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This term, Highlands College Adult & Community Education has expanded its course offerings to include aseries of single-session workshops that include topics such as music appreciation, Jersey’s biodiversity, children’s hairstyling, Wim Hof breathing method, dance appreciation and creative writing.

Carolyn Rose Ramsay, artistic director of Jersey’s first professional ballet company, Ballet d’Jèrri, teaches two sessions of Dance Appreciation. We spoke with Carolyn about her passion for dance and what she plans to teach in her workshops.

What aspect of dance are you most excited about introducing to dance newbies?

I am most excited about telling the story of some tenacious people with a soft power that changed the world in its own small way.   

Why is it important to teach about the history of dance?

I have always been fascinated by the way political currents and climates affect the development of the culture around them, and vice versa. British ballet, for example, is a product of the immigrants who brought it in, the Brits who embraced it, the wars, the depression…and as a result it is not quite like ballet in any other place, because its road has been different.

Because dancers must dedicate their lives to their craft at such a young age, the dance world tends to become our culture and our colleagues become our family. For me, the history of my art is as much the story of who I am as my grandma, my country, my native language. Anna Pavlova said that every time a little child wobbles into a plié for the first time, they join the same legacy as King Louis XIV, Catherine the Great, Nijinsky, and herself. I love that concept of legacy, and the idea that from here we are building our own.

Who are these courses for?

I am biased, but I cannot imagine this subject being uninteresting to anyone! More realistically, I think that anyone with an interest in history or in performing arts would benefit.

Why would non-dancers want to learn about ballet and contemporary dance?

My first job as a dancer was in Cuba’s national ballet, where the audience has grown up watching ballet and learning about ballet, so they appreciate it the same way they appreciate football or baseball. They know its history and feel qualified to comment on what they like or don’t like. The role of the audience is undervalued in the arts. I’d like to show people that art is not just for artists, and that one doesn’t need to be a dancer to have an opinion about dance. 

Do you want to share anything notable about Jersey’s dance history?

Valerie Guy, who recently passed away, was a local legend. She taught an unfathomable number of kids in Jersey to love dance and express themselves through the performing arts. Her influence was tremendous.

Are you going to make us try out any moves in the courses?

I will demonstrate a little bit of stylistic differences so that hopefully the next time you are watching a show you will be able to recognise influences from different schools, techniques, or countries. If anyone wants to get up and join in, they are welcome!

Dance Appreciation: Ballet in Britain runs on Tuesday 11 October from 7 to 9pm at the Philip Mourant Centre in Trinity. Dance Appreciation: Origins of Contemporary Dance takes place on Tuesday 8 November from 7 to 9pm. For more information on the workshops, visit
www.highlandsace.com.

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