If the statistics of the 46th edition of the annual National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) is any indication, then the performing arts programmes are definitely creating pathways to opportunity for our juniors and young adults.
Reports suggest that there has been an increase in the number of junior/youth entries and entrants across the three disciplines of the performing arts – Dance, Theatre and Music. In both Dance and Music, more junior entries than adult entries were recorded and in Theatre the stats represented a 100% increase in participation for juniors and adults as compared with the previous year. This equated to a good news story for Theatre, with twice as many entrants overall, perhaps bringing about a direct correlation to the twice as many set to perform at the semi-finals this NIFCA season.
With the lens focussed on this growth in the number of junior and young adult entries, another one of the positives emanating from the NIFCA Theatre platform this year is the contribution of theatre in education practitioners, veteran Winston Farrell alongside his colleague Michelle Barrow, and the work of their students in the Barbados Youth Advance Corps, the former Barbados Youth Service. All six of their entries have made it to the semi-finals.
There could be many reasons for the increase in junior and young adult entries across the board, but generally the arts provide a positive outlet for expression. These programmes for at-risk youth, as well as the community groups and the NCF’s Dance and Drama in Schools programmes, have impacted the increased level of entries for 2019. Of the three schools making it to the NIFCA Dance semi-finals, two are a part of the NCF’s Dance in Schools programme and similarly, of the five schools participating in the Drama in Schools programme, three entered and one advanced to the semi-final stage.
Research has proven that the arts can have a positive impact on youth development – from tiny tots right through adolescence. International studies have shown that engagement in various activities in the performance and visual arts at a young age has been associated with positive social and emotional behaviours, including empathy, sharing, and mood control. Likewise, there is substantiated evidence to positive outcomes on indicators such as school grades, test scores, and graduation rates.
The 40 semi-finalists in Dance, the 28 in Theatre, and the 90 in Music are already deep in rehearsals to fine-tune their pieces for the first weekend of the 2019 NIFCA Performing Arts semi-finals beginning Saturday, November 2 to Monday, November 4 at 6:00 p.m. each night.
In Dance, the participants will be performing in the categories of Dancehall, Hip Hop, Ballroom, Latin, African, Afro-Caribbean, Caribbean Folk, Contemporary and Praise. For the first time in the junior category there are entries in the areas of Dancehall, Hip Hop, Ballroom and Latin, while an increase across the board was noted in the areas of African, Afro-Caribbean and Caribbean Folk.
Taking centre stage for Theatre will be works in Drama – a monologue two short plays and two full length plays; works in Speech inclusive of the traditional forms of choral speech and choreopoems, and the growing spoken word art form; together with mixed discipline pieces particularly in the junior category, coming from the community arts academies.
There will be expressions of Music, both instrumental and voice, in performances from individuals and ensembles, as well as schools and community groups. The presentations will span the genres of Contemporary, Folk, Calypso and Classical punctuated with a few Fusions. As a developmental programme, NIFCA has always encouraged the inclusion of original entries to set a tone of 100% Bajan. This year 30 original songs were entered in the competition and nearly all of them will be among those to be judged at the semi-finals.
The first night of performances will be held at the Alexandra School Hall, while Sunday and Monday’s performances are scheduled for the St. Leonard’s Boys’ Secondary School and the Lester Vaughan School respectively.
The second semi-final weekend will run from Friday, November 8 to Sunday, November 10, this time with all the performances being held at the Combermere School’s Major Noot Hall.
As in previous years, the performances chosen from the semi-final stage will advance to the discipline specific nights and a mixed night for the juniors at the finals. The Dance, Music and Junior nights will be held at the Frank Collymore Hall and the Theatre Arts presentations at the Daphne Joseph-Hackett Theatre, the home of Theatre in Barbados from November 26 to 29. In addition, for the first time a NIFCA Dance Battle final has been included which will see entrants facing off at Jubilee Gardens in the city on November 16.