“Trinidad and Tobago has lost a star.”
Adrian Daniel, choreographer, hip-hop department of Elle NYTT (New York/Trinidad and Tobago) dance company, made this comment after he heard of the death of Trinidadian student Titan Lee-Hai in the United States.
The 19-year-old plunged to his death from a 15-storey New York University apartment building in New York City, USA, early Monday morning. Lee-Hai was “stark naked” and “looked like he was on drugs” when he jumped.
New York police had two theories—he may have committed suicide or may have been on drugs.
But his father, David Lee-Hai, said he did not believe his son, a former pupil of St Mary’s College in Port of Spain, committed suicide.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Daniel said he and the ensemble spent quality time with Lee-Hai when he visited during Christmas holidays. Daniel also said director La Shaun Prescott, who is in New York, was devastated.
Still reeling from the news, Daniel said: “It was a serious blow to hear what we were hearing. It is not the Titan we know...we are hearing all the negatives. He was a star in the making; he could sing, he was serious about his dance. He could rap and dance on top of it. T&T has lost a star.”
Daniel added: “He never gave the impression of having any difficulties at home or any troubles. It is baffling.”
Asked how his peers were dealing with the sad news, Daniel said: “They have posted videos on YouTube. The most recent video and a song was from Bunji Garlin’s “Truck On the Road”. It was the last time we spent time with him before he went to New York. He liked videography. It was something I discovered about him. He has videos on Trizzykids.”
The loss has not yet sunk in with the other children.
“The children are messaging me and asking if it is true. He is one of the peers. My heart goes out to them in a big way. I have to talk to them before I start class. It is a sad time for all of us.”
Reflecting on his meeting with the adolescent Lee-Hai, Daniel said he was struck by his punctuality and regularity.
“Titan was brought to me in his teens. He was punctual and reliable. It is something you don’t see in young people. He showed his dedication. We began moulding him to perform with the company. He would dance at corporate events for companies or sports days. He has done performances. We could depend upon him. We knew we had an upcoming star.”
Initially, Daniel said, Lee-Hai had some difficulty adapting to the music, but he kept pushing the envelope, eventually graduating from open to advanced classes.
“We noted his development with pride and pushed him towards achieving excellence. He was a budding star. We saw the potential. Titan was really talented,” said Daniel.
Asked if he had contacted his parents, Daniel said: “With all the negative publicity, I was hesitant to find out how they were doing. They must have been bombarded with calls and messages. They might not be able to deal with another voice. You can never understand how they are feeling. It’s a tremendous loss and it is heartbreaking.”
On a lighter note, Daniel said: “He is a serious doubles man. He did a video on doubles. He wanted doubles in New York. He was a bona fide Trini.”
Veteran music arranger Carl “Beaver” Henderson said he did not know him as well as Daniel but he knew Titan was talented.
He expressed his condolences to the Lee-Hai family.