CENTRE STAGE: Beverly-Ann Ottley-McLean, centre, at one of her shows

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The alpha of dance

By Sue-Ann Wayow sue-ann.wayow@trinidadexpress.com

BEVERLEY-ANN Ottley-McLean has been dancing ever since she knew how to walk. Now Ottley-McLean, in her fourth decade of life, has her own dance school with frequent theatrical dance productions.
She is the artistic director of the Alpha Theatrical Dance Company (ATDC) a contemporary/modern dance school. This year the school celebrated its 20th anniversary, on February 6. The school has an enrollment of approximately 60 students including Ottley-McLean’s two children Dainelle, 25 and Jor-el, 20.
In 1993, Ottley-McLean opened her school in Marabella. It was then called Los Ninos.
Ottley-McLean said that in 2006, the name “Alpha” was chosen because it means “beginning” and Ottley-McLean wanted her school to be “a pioneer of a number of things in dance”.
Over the years her group has travelled abroad to perform in Grenada, Venezuela and Washington DC and also took part in workshops at the famous Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Manhattan. The group also does back-up dancing for several local gospel artistes.
One of their most recent productions “Without Frills” took place recently at the Naparima Bowl in San Fernando.
Ottley-McLean, who lives in San Fernando, studied dance locally and internationally.
A human resource management employee at the Ministry of National Security, she completed her first degree in Theatrical Arts at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in 2010 and is pursuing her degree in dance at the same institution.
Being a single working mother and student is not easy, and Ottley-McLean said she was grateful to her parents Guy and Lucy Ottley and her brothers Guytn and Daya Ottley who all assist her.
She describes her dancing life as rewarding yet challenging.
“It is very rewarding seeing your students grow in dance but it could also be very trying. Dance in Trinidad and Tobago is now being recognised since the past four to five years. Prior to that, dance, people would have treated it very flippantly. People are now beginning to recognise the significance of dance in some-one’s life.”
Ottley-McLean said she was disheartened during the time she studied dance as a young person, and there were not many avenues where she could have studied the artform professionally.
And she said even though the dance competitions started by large companies were great initiatives, the “standards were poor”, and “they need to beef up their standards (and) who they choose to participate.”
One of the problems that the dance industry still face today was support from the corporate world she said. She hopes that persons become more appreciative of theatrical dance.
“What I would like to see is people becoming more visionary in what we do with dance in terms of theatre. I have no problem doing dance but it is a performing art and dance in terms of theatre, you can get a lot more creativity out of it. I would like to see more dance teachers get to understand the theatre aspects of dance.”
Ottley-McLean writes the scripts for her productions, with the assistance of a competent committee. She also sings and plays the guitar.
Her style — contemporary/ modern — developed during the 1940’s when ballerinas were fed up with the rigidity of the dance and adjusted the ballet dance to become more interpretative. Those who do contemporary dance can branch of into several genres of dance, Ottley-McLean said.
At her school, there are students of different ages and the dance instructor usually starts taking in children at age three. “They are prepared for stage at that age and they do very well. They are guided as to how they keep their timing on stage and such. Older persons who usually join must have a great passion for dance because many are self conscious at that age. They can be very successful dancers if they have a lot of self motivation.”
Ottley-McLean also gives awards to long-standing and out-standing students at their annual Honour Day which includes certificates, trophies, overseas trips and tertiary scholarships.
Her desire after she completes her work in the public service is to open more schools in east and south Trinidad.
Right now, dance lessons take place in Marabella but soon classes will be relocated to St Vincent Street in San Fernando.
Training takes place on a Saturday only for the different age groups. For more information, Ottley-McLean can be contacted at 794-9282.
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