Most families migrate to developed countries for better opportunities, mainly for their children.
It was no different with John Alleyne’s parents who brought their three sons from Barbados in 1965.
“They wanted to expose us to as many opportunities that exist in Canada,” he said.
Alleyne found his niche in dancing.
“I think it was the power of just the body moving to music and how engaging and free that was combined with the magic of performance that really drew me to this art form,” said the world renowned choreographer who was recognized for his creative brilliance with an African Canadian Achievement Award last Saturday night.
Graduating from The National Ballet School in 1978, Alleyne joined the Stuttgart Ballet where he started his choreographic career, creating compelling works for the Noverre workshop and the company’s repertoire.
He said that Germany, where he spent six years, was the perfect fit at the time.
“When I walked into the studio in 1978 as an 18-year-old, there were dancers of colour at all levels,” he said. “That, for me, seemed like a space in which judgment was going to come on talent as opposed to the exoticism of being Black. Also, the work was so engaging and touching of the heart, dealing with sort of universal ideas that I had never experienced before.”
Returning to Canada in 1984, Alleyne joined the National Ballet of Canada as a soloist, accepting the role as the company’s first resident choreographer. In that position, he created several challenging works, including “Blue-Eyed Trek”, “Split House Geometric” and “Interrogating Slam”.
Invited by Ballet British Columbia (BC) to choreograph several new works in the late 1980s, including “Flying to Paris”, “Go Slow Walter” and “Talk About Wings”, Alleyne was appointed the west coast ballet company’s artistic director in 1992. His leadership marked the beginning of a creative and prosperous period in the company’s history where he created one-act and full-length contemporary ballets.
Alleyne left Ballet BC – which was experiencing financial challenges – in June 2009 and returned to Montreal where he now resides with his family. He lived in Montreal in the late 1960s and early 1970s prior to joining The National Ballet School.
The first ever Simon Fraser University honorary doctorate of fine arts recipient is planning to move back to the Caribbean.
“The arts have been such a large part of my life,” he said. “Now as I slide towards my 60s, it’s important to find a place where you can encourage and give others an opportunity.”
For the first time in the 32-year history of the awards, a parent and child were honoured on the same night.
Jamaican-born health care practitioner, Dr. Rosemary Moodie, has provided medical care for critically ill newborn infants and children while working to improve medical service delivery needs in the field of obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics. The younger of her two sons – Dr. Jonathan Wong – is enrolled in the Hospital For Sick Children’s paediatric medicine residency program.
“As a parent, your greatest legacy is not what you have accomplished professionally,” said Dr. Moodie who has helped to shape the lives of young people in some of the city’s designated priority neighbourhoods. “It’s what you have done to put youths and your own children in the best possible position to be useful societal citizens.”
The former YWCA president and Project for Advancement of Childhood Education board director was honoured with the Excellence in Science Award.
For his part, Canadian-born Dr. Wong – who lived in Jamaica for two years with his parents before the family returned to Canada – was proud to be the Youth Achievement Award recipient.
“I didn’t have to look too far for role models and I am delighted to be following in the footsteps of my parents who are paediatricians,” said Wong who represented Jamaica in swimming at the 2006 Central American Games, the 2007 Pan Am Games and International Swimming Federation (FINA) world championships in Manchester and Rome.
Arnold Auguste, the founding publisher of Share – Canada’s largest ethnic weekly newspaper serving the Black and West Indian community for the past 38 years – was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
“When Michael (Van Cooten) called me last December from Guyana where he was vacationing, it didn’t take me a long time to say yes,” said Auguste who started the newspaper out of his apartment. “I am aware of the fact that Michael and his team reach out to people who we don’t normally hear about and bring them to the forefront. They have a very good track record of choosing award recipients and tonight is no exception. I am humbled to be in their presence.”
Thando Hyman, the Afrocentric Alternative School’s first principal, was the recipient of the Excellence in Education Award.
“In a time when there was controversy, we sowed seeds of excellence at that school,” she said. “In a time when there was scepticism, we ensured student achievement in excellence.”
Other award winners were real estate investor, Isaac Olowolafe Sr.; community worker, Ned Blair; Public Prosecution Service of Canada counsel and Canadian Association of Black Lawyers founding president, Sandy Thomas; Natural Path Integrated Health Care Centre physician, Dr. Richard Dodd; media practitioner and Ryerson University visiting professor, Marci Ien; Health Canada (Ontario Region) information management unit supervisor, Felicia London; Member of Parliament, Emmanuel Dubourg; Correctional Service Canada chaplain, Imam Michael Abdur Rashid Taylor; Canada’s first female hockey star and Hall-of-Famer, Angela James; Toronto District School Board principal, Patrick Knight and former Ontario Premier Bob Rae.
By RON FANFAIR