From an early age, children have their likes and dislikes. Many hate vegetables, for example, but love sweets. As a child, Pearl-Ann Hinds was certain of two things. She wanted to dance and she wanted to teach.
Even as a 16-year-old student at the Barbados Community College, Hinds knew her life would involve teaching and dance but she just wasn’t aware of what her journey would involve.
At 27-years-old, Hinds today is the proud owner and director of Pearl Dance Academy, the sole American Ballet Theatre (ABT) – certified school in Barbados and the Caribbean.
“I always knew I wanted to dance although I didn’t know what avenue I wanted to go into,” she told Bajan Vibes. “Funnily enough, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but just not in Maths and English.”
She added: “There is a part of me that believes I have something to share and give and that drives my efforts and my desire to teach or perform, whether it be to a student or to an audience member sitting and watching a performance.”
As it relates to children specifically, she is devoted to helping them see the best of themselves. “When students realize that someone is interested in not only what they get for homework . . . but in how they carry themselves, that will go over so well for a young child. Our generation needs to know people are interested in them and not just in their grades,” she said.
As a toddler, Pearl–Ann was known for happily dancing while attending church with her mother. Taking note of the child’s excitement and natural talent, a family friend suggested that her mother enrol her in a dance academy – Dance Place.
That’s where her talent and groove for music were discovered. “Apparently I had some sort of gift (but) I didn’t know what was going on at that point in time,” she recalled. As she continued with ballet and modern dance throughout secondary school, gaining distinctions up to Grade 8 in ballet, her love and appreciation for the art form grew.
“My love for dance continued to develop because as you continue, you learn a lot of techniques (and) you realize the art form is so much deeper than what you thought it was when you were a child,” she pointed out.
It was while completing her Associate Degree in Dance at BCC that the concept of starting Pearl Dance Academy emerged, during a Dance Pedagogy class to be exact. It was at the age of 20, after much debate, that Pearl-Ann decided to turn her dream into the reality of a full-fledged business. The year was 2010.
However, she pointed out: “I had no business know-how. I just knew I had the passion for dance. I didn’t think I had anything to offer. It’s one of those cases where you have doubts about your capabilities and what your gift is.”
Two years after launching the venture, Pearl-Ann had to take a break for her own professional development. This was after she was accepted by Belhaven University in Mississippi, USA to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Administration with an emphasis on dance.
Thankfully, in her absence, her mother and contacts which she made during her time at BCC stepped in, continuing the weekly dance classes at Mount of Praise until Pearl-Ann completed her studies and returned in 2015.
Armed with her new qualifications and a fresh business-savvy approach, Pearl-Ann immediately set about revamping Pearl Dance Academy into the business it is today.
“Having an understanding of the world of the arts, I realized that Barbados doesn’t really have an industry per se,” she said. “We do have one but it’s not prominent, not like how New York is known for Broadway. Pearl’s Dance Academy is aiming towards that bigger picture.”
As a result of the Academy’s affiliation with the ABT, students can join dance groups and summer intensive dance camps in North America. Out of last year’s batch of participants, four students have been accepted by groups in New York and Tampa, Florida.
As she seeks to build the dance community in Barbados and the region, Pearl–Ann wants her dancers and Barbadian dancers not to limit themselves to Barbados.
“It’s about creating an industry that persons like myself and persons who come after me can have a viable career in dance in the region,” she said.