Members of the dance community in Barbados are devastated at the loss of one of the first official dance schools – The Barbados Dance Theatre.
The faculty, located in Bishop’s Court Hill, St Michael has trained prominent dancers such as Michael Goring, Granville Garner, and Louise Woodvine. It was gutted on Saturday in an early morning blaze.
Police and fire officers responded to the location around 6:30 a.m. along with two fire trucks, a water tanker and ten fire officers under the direction of Division Officer Erine Fields.
The principal of the Barbados Dance Theatre Deborah Taitt-Cumberbatch said it was too early to put a monetary value on the loss of the insured facility but noted the destruction of possessions of immeasureable value to the dance community.
“I would not know the value of the loss until I calculate everything with my committee. Right now, it is the first day that I have come back here to remove whatever I can salvage which was very little. Last night I started to write down the list of all the contents of the studio. We lost a baby grand piano, all of our costumes from over the years,” she said.
Taitt-Cumberbatch said it was heartbreaking for her to watch the place where she was trained to dance go up in smoke. In fact, today as she picked up the pieces from the rubble it was an emotional time for her.
“Heartbreaking. I am still not over it. I came back here today and it started all over again it is very devastating, very sad. It is many years and memories we have here in the Barbados Dance Theatre. All of the schools which you see out there all of the dance schools came out of the dance theatre,” she said.
The school, which catered to approximately 100 students aged three to over 60 years old, will be temporarily relocated thanks to the kindness of schools and organisations who have offered their spaces at a reduced cost or in some cases free of cost.
“We have been receiving very warm responses from various schools and organisations. We are trying to see how we can get our classes organised so they could be in these various spaces. We are trying to make a decision based on all the information given to us on where we would be using and go from there. We would have classes temporarily at these places until we rebuild which we are looking to do very soon,” she said.
Artistic Director at the Barbados Dance Theatre John Hunte said he was saddened and shocked when he heard the Bishop’s Court, St Michael dancers’ home was on fire.
“I quickly tried to figure out what was the new lesson to learn from this. It is a significant moment for us to reflect and remember the significance of the Barbados Dance Theatre and what it means for us. What it has done is create a moment for persons to come together to rebuild,” he said.
Cultural Officer Dance at the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) Alicia Payne-Hurley said she shed tears when she heard the place where she was given her foundation as a professional dancer was in flames.
“I got the call very early in the morning and it felt like the loss of a friend to be honest because of the historic value of the space as one of the front runners in dance in Barbados.
She noted, “That space is where the most renowned Barbadian dancers would have touched at one point to take a class or a workshop. It is the loss of history. The type of documentation they would have on Michael Goring and Jerry Lavine…it is knowing that that documentation is gone forever. A building can always be replaced but the value of what was held in that building is a loss to us.”
Taitt-Cumberbatch told Barbados TODAY that it was also too early to put a price on the cost to rebuild.
“They just finished the forensics yesterday and we have to wait until they are given to us and we are supposed to be getting that from the fire chief, hopefully, in a couple of days. Our insurance company would have to send their people in to get an estimate. They have already been there but they have to go back to measure and look at our plan for building,” she said.
However, she told Barbados TODAY the entity was accepting donations in an effort to rebuild the facility.