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Stella Maris Dance Ensemble Celebrates 20 Years

Stella Maris from their 2012 Season of Dance

The Stella Maris Dance Ensemble has turned 20, stepping out of their teenage years and deepening their status as one of the premier Jamaican dance troupes for young dancers. The 20th season of dance will feature guest choreography by Neila Ebanks, Toki Gonzalez  and Dr. Kariamu Asante (Temple University, Philadelphia).

Co-Founder and artistic director, Dr. Monika Lawrence noted that this 20th rung marks the troupe’s continued climb toward creating a Caribbean dance vocabulary and aesthetic that reflects the multiple cultures that have been poured into the region’s creative cauldron.

“Today, the Ensemble continues to seek to further the quest for a truly indigenous expression by giving young adults a sense of pride in their own heritage,” Dr. Lawrence said.

The Stella Maris Ensemble was born out of the dance component of the  National Performing Arts Festival staged by the Jamaica Commission for Cultural Development, and originated with students of the Stella Maris Preparatory from which it takes its name. However, the troupe now features dancers from a wide cross-section of communities and backgrounds.

The Stella Maris Dance Ensemble as they delve into RevivalAdditionally, the maturity of their works has been greatly enhanced by Lawrence’s own choreography, as well as the infusion of works by celebrated choreographers including pieces from the National Dance Theatre Company’s repertoire. Two of these ‘gifts’ from the NDTC make it to the 20th Season.

‘Liza’, one the two, is probably easily one of the most celebrated performances by the Ensemble. The seven dances comprising the troupe’s 20th Season of Dance also includes  Rex Nettleford’s ‘Tribute to Cliff’, H Patten’s ‘Gye Nyame’ and Asante’s ‘Sankofa Ja’.

Additionally, the season will also feature three new works. Dr. Lawrence will premiere ‘Where is Maria’ which has been reworked in tribute to Professor Nettleford, Wycliff Bennett and Christine Bell who made significant contributions to the troupe’s growth. The other new works come from Neila Ebanks, a founding member of the troupe. Ebanks will present ‘In Moving Mind - From Seed to Flower’. Cuban dancer and choreographer rounds out the trio of new works with ‘Sensacion Loca’.

According to Dr. Lawrence, the Stella Maris Ensemble has become about more than dance based on the recognition that art supersedes individuality.

“Dance is the commonality that brought us together but Stella is more than a dance company,” Dr. Lawrence said. “It’s an extended family that recognizes that for a family to succeed we must exercise love and mutual respect for each other.”

The Stella Maris 20th Season of Dance takes place November 7, 2013 through to November 10, at the Little Theatre, Kingston. Thursday showing is a special event targeting youth from Homes of Safety. The season takes place under the patronage of Wayne Chen.