As a 1997 Miss Black Ontario contestant, Stacy-Ann Vassell was more preoccupied with Dance Caribe, which performed on the program than the pageant’s style and glitz.
“I just loved this group and I signed up almost right away to become a member,” she said.
Vassell danced in all of the company’s productions and was the rehearsal director and assistant manager for the Koombana Suite, choreographed by the company’s artistic director, Martin Scott-Pascall.
Last summer, Vassell founded the Elite Dance Initiative for Youth (EDIFY) which was among seven dance companies that took part in last Sunday’s youth & children’s Caribbean dance fundraising showcase organized by Dance Caribe Performing Company.
“It was important for us to be part of this event because I don’t want our young people to take our Caribbean culture for granted,” said Jamaican-born Vassell who started dancing at age eight and migrated in 1987. “It’s easy to learn contemporary, hip hop and all of the different styles and forget about our culture.”
The other performing groups were the Hummingbird Dancers of Oshawa, established by Ron Mathlin in 1989 with eight female dancers; Mwendo Dance Company, which was created by Tia Grossett, Tamu Stevens and Shaneka Brissett four years ago; Roots & Branches, which is a multi-genre dance program for young people in the Malvern community; the Children & Youth Dance Theatre, which offers oriented dance programs for children four years and older and Dance: Let Your Feet Explore (D’LYFFE), started by Akua Delfish and Onika Powell last year.
Arnelle Douglas, who won the 2013 International Dance Talent teenage pageant and 2011 International Dance Pageant teenage queen, Nezhada Gomes-Johnson, also did solo performances.
Scott-Pascall said that funds raised from the event will be distributed to the participating dance companies to enhance their programs.
“It’s necessary that we do all we can to keep these programs going so that young people could learn about Caribbean culture,” he said.
Scott-Pascall also revealed that this year’s dance talent pageant will be held in May.