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Meraki opens eyes and hearts - Benefit concert for Tony Wilson exceeds all expectations

Published:Tuesday | November 19, 2019 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
The Company Dance Theatre pulls together on stage for the ‘Meraki’ presentation of the 1999 choreography ‘Calabash’ by artistic director Tony Wilson last Sunday, November 17, at The Little Theatre.
Dancers of the Company Dance Theatre define strength in the various movements on stage last Sunday, November 17, at the Little Theatre for ‘Meraki’.
National Dance Theatre Company’s principal dancer Kerry-Ann Henry exudes emotion in ‘Weeping Widow’ choreographed by Tony Wilson in 2016.
National Dance Theatre Company’s principal dancer Kerry-Ann Henry exudes emotion in ‘Weeping Widow’ choreographed by Tony Wilson in 2016.
A celebration of life, love and dance is observed in these dancers steps on stage at The Little Theatre last Sunday, November 17 for the benefit concert Meraki for Tony Wilson.
The finale of Meraki titled ‘Calabash’ brings dancers together.
Lindsey Lodenquai, principal dancer of the Company Dance Theatre is lifted by her peers during ‘Colours’.
Male dancers of the Company Dance Theatre hold firm forms.
Tiffani Smith of L’Cadco: A United Caribbean Dance Force is caught in motion of ‘So SATTA’ to Third World’s Satta Massagana.
Barbara McDaniel, artistic director of Dance Theatre Xaymaca makes a guest appearance as one of the partipating Company Dance Theatre alumni.
The Stella Maris Dance Ensemble performs 'Patchwork' choreographed by Tony Wilson as their tribute for Meraki.

One of the pleasures of a life surrounded by dance is the ability of it to move a person, whether physically or emotionally, to smile then to tears. It is safe to say, this is the way Tony Wilson, artistic director and founder of the Company Dance Theatre (CDT) and School of Modern Dance, felt as he watched dancers unite in movement for Meraki, the benefit concert hosted in association with Dancing In Faith Limited last Sunday, November 17, at the Little Theatre.

It was the artistic director’s first time observing his dancers from front of stage for an entire show – stated as Tony Wilson humoured several guests, some of which were former students and friends, at the end of the night about returning to teach next week. There was an obvious longing in the eyes of Sir, as he is affectionately called, to be back to his normal self, actively teaching and interacting with dancers outside of the wheelchair.

For me, a past student of Sir, it was nostalgic, a similar longing to express myself through dance. I watched as members of various dance ensembles presented pieces choreographed by the man of the moment and almost suddenly, I could hear him making musical counts, and him standing inside the dance studio as he prepared us for a season. And though familiar with most of the dances, it was like watching them for the first time all over again.

The first performance, Colours illuminated the stage with Shari Jackson, Lindsey Lodenquai and Leanne Hall gracefully leading The Company and the Junior Ensemble of the School of Modern Dance. It was followed by Stella Maris Dance Ensemble with Patchwork, and National Dance Theatre Company’s Kerry-Ann Henry who delivered an evocative, eye-opening recital of Weeping Widow.

The theatre turned silent, not that it was unbearably loud before the spotlights turned on Henry sitting on a chair looking at a framed picture, but the light chatter of persons reviewing the steps of the previous dancers ceased as the dancer took command of the stage.

The second half started with Twilight, then So SATTA by L’Acadco: A United Caribbean Dance Force, Chains by Dance Theatre Xaymaca and the finale Calabash, a two-decade old piece which opened with CDT alumni Barbara McDaniel, Trixi Macmillan, Cheryl Waite, Tony Henry, Lisa McLean, Colin Blackwood, Alistair Graphine and Terry Hall.

All in all, there were moments to be in awe of as the hearts of many were purely touched by the idea of dancers, literally dancing in faith together for a cause.

“Meraki exceeded all expectations,” said Gabrielle Miller, one of the principal dancers with The Company. However, while the total funds accumulated from the production has not been calculated, she believes what was made will be put to good use. Dancing in Faith Limited, which is the non-profit organisation created to centralise fundraising efforts with regard Tony Wilson’s recovery and healthcare, pledged to work continuously to assist with the medical expenses and get him back on his feet.