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​The Bridgette Can Dance

Photos courtesy Mark Lyndersay

My name is Bridgette Wilson and I’ve been a choreographer since 2009.

I live in Cascade now but I come from Trincity, where I lived until I was 12 years old, when my mom died. And my sister and I moved to Petit Valley to live with my aunt, uncle and cousins. My dad’s job had him travelling all the time. At the time, he was living in St Lucia. I think it was the best decision, rather than uproot us every two years. It really has helped me feel rooted.

I was the girl in the Trincity streets running around with the boys, riding my bike with no shoes on, not eating lunch. Coming home when the streetlights came on. Riding through Castleton, across the bridge, down Cane Farm. I would find a friend, climb up the neighbour’s plum tree.

I think my father Guy was kind of proud I was a tomboy because he didn’t have any boy children. It was me and my sister Guyanne. My mom is Joanne.

Losing my mom was my first experience of knowing someone who died and it was very jarring. I go to therapy – a friend was murdered this year. And, in dealing with that grief, my lack of dealing with my mother’s death has come up. It was hard but I’ve had a very supportive [extended] family.

It’s 25 years this year and I miss my mother all the time but I consider my aunts like mothers. Auntie Denise, Daddy’s sister, we would talk on the phone. Auntie Helen, who I lived by for a long time. Aunty June, who I lived by for a short time and Aunty Carole who takes care of everybody in the family. They and my uncles, Dave, Everard and Ian have been a big support system around my sister and I ever since.

I didn’t want the husband but I always wanted to be a mother when I was younger. That shifted and I wanted the whole package, the husband, child, nice house, puppy and whatnot. More recently I’ve missed a supportive partner to share life with when I’m depleted by overwork. I’m not sure I want to be a mother anymore. If it comes, I would not say no. That mothering part of me may be fulfilled because I’m with children all the time.

I’m a Catholic. I don’t go to church. Miss Thom at Convent would always tell us, “God is everywhere!” So my argument became, “If God is everywhere, why do I have to go to church to speak to him?” I can speak to him in my car.

I was one of those people who said, “Nah, the crime not coming by me! I not doing anything! I have no reason to be afraid!” But in recent years I’ve changed the tune of my song to, “Anything could happen to anybody anywhere.” They shooting and they going and it don’t matter if you were the target or not.

Trinidad is a place where, the same speed you see the good, you see the bad.

When we win a football game, you forget who next to you, who looking like what, who might be the criminal. And when we just come together as a country full of pride, I think that is the hope in the country.

I went to St Joseph’s Girl Primary and passed for Providence but my sister was at Convent so, in form two, I transferred. I did my undergrad in dance at York University in Canada. In 2016 I did my masters in choreography in London at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Greenwich.
I’ve been kind of obsessed with London for a long time. I went in 2002 for the first time to tour with Metamorphosis Dance Company for a month, dancing all over the place. I went again in 2003 to drop my sister off to university in London and again as a dancer in 2004. I’ve always found random reasons to go to London and my masters became one of them.

I always say there’s not much difference between Independence Square and Trafalgar Square. It’s what you choose to do with the square!

I consider myself more a teacher than a choreographer. But choreography is a very big part of my teaching.

I always liked to do my own thing. As a child, I was creating dances: in the yard; in the road; when my teachers were teaching me, my mind was going off in different [directions]. But I would not have had much of an opportunity at home. As a captain at Convent I would have choreographed the cheerleader routines but it wasn’t on a large scale.

I’m not a big “tell people how I feel” person. I’m a big “show people how I feel person.”

I might even get emotional when creating something. It’s a means of communicating with the world through movement. I tend to choreograph from a personal perspective, from something that happened in my life. I do consider myself very privileged and blessed in dance world because I did not have to fight as hard as others.

In 2009 I was offered the role of rehearsal director of Metamorphosis Dance Company and got lots of opportunities to choreograph through or for the company. Whether it was Christmas shows or corporate events. One of my earliest big things was at the Hyatt at the Fifth Summit of the Americas when Barack Obama came to Trinidad. Brian MacFarlane was the artistic director and the teachers at Caribbean School of Dance put me up for that challenge. I’ve kind of just gone from there.

I tend to forget these things but, through Metamorphosis, my work would have been seen at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Carifesta in Suriname. Locally, I have worked with Bunji Garlin, Freetown Collective, Lyrical, the last Machel Monday, all the Lost Tribe presentations are choreographed by me. The opening of Commonwealth Games a few weeks ago.

I always say I’m a teacher first. I take most seriously the job of teaching students, not necessarily t about dance but about life. About the problems they may have. I learnt that from my teacher Patricia Roe. We would “waste” so much time in class talking – but everybody felt this special connection and vibe in that class. I’ve taken that with me, getting to know the dancer: who are you? Why are you here? How can [we help one another]? Once they get the step right first.

Right now I teach everybody, from the three-year-olds right up to the 20-something just gone off to university. They all give me a challenge in different ways. But I love the three- to five-year-olds because, on my worst days, when you don’t want to get up and teach a class, they are the ones who put a smile on your face. They don’t care how you’re feeling. They come to hug you up!

I’d pay to be allowed to teach. I’m the principal of the Caribbean School of Dancing. There’s not enough opportunities locally for you to make a living only as a choreographer. Anybody who choreographs does several or many things. My main source of income is as principal, which happened in 2017, but I had been teaching with the school since 2009. And I trained there as a child. I’ve spent my whole life there.

The best part about being a choreographer is I get so involved in the creative process. It is only when I give it away – it’s the dancers’ own now – and I step back out of the process and become human again, I [can see] what they have done with it. How they have made the movement and story their own. I did a piece called Let There Be. The first day I sat in the audience, I bawled for the whole time! Because I realised that, without planning it, I had put my life on the stage. And it was now there for everyone to see.

The down side of choreographing is the hours I have to put in for certain performances. It can be draining on both body and brain – and emotionally. This July into August, it was back-to-back productions, show after show after show, sometimes two or three different shows in one weekend, just give yourself, give yourself, give yourself. After that, I don’t want to talk to anyone for a few weeks. Just go for my bed.

I sometimes feel depleted. But I NEVER feel it’s not worth it! I think it’s just for me to figure out how to balance that delivery of my energy.

Trinis could have the rudest pout of our lip and the biggest shake of our hip. But we welcome everybody with as open arms as possible.

Trinbagonians are famous for last-minute mediocrity. We are so great, so talented, hilarious, vibrant, lovable, intelligent. But with all that, we’s still wait for the last possible minute to jump into action. And we still pull it off! Imagine if we planned it properly! Imagine how much better the things we put out there could be! Imagine how much better Trinidad and Tobago could be!

Trinis do the best they can do with whatever they’ve been given. And they don’t let anything hold them back.

Trinidad and Tobago is a living vibration rooted deep within my Caribbean belly. That is from David Rudder’s song Calypso Music but I feel it is about Trinidad and Tobago.