Twenty-year-old Kemal Marshall is an aspiring professional dancer who works at Gentle Steps Arts Academy as a dance teacher. Positive Vibes sat down with Marshall to discuss his passion for dance and his goals for the future.
Q: What is your mantra for life?
A: My mantra is, “You have to work hard to achieve success and work harder to remain successful.”
Q: You are a trained dancer. At what age did you realize you were passionate about dance?
A: I realized dance was my passion while studying Theatre Arts at the Barbados Community College from 2015-2017. During this period, we did an Introduction to Dance course which helped me realize I had the potential to become a dancer and from then on I have been working hard to achieve the goal of becoming a professional dancer.
Q: What does dance mean to you?
A: To me, dance is more than just movement. It is the understanding of how the body works and how it can be used to communicate stories and emotions to the audience. Dance is a way of life!
Q: Take me back to the day you had your first dancing lesson. How was that day for you?
A: I cannot remember my first dancing lesson. But I can recall my first ballet class which was in 2016 at Gentle Steps Arts Academy. It was Grade 3 Ballet and I barely knew a thing or two about that style of dance. However, when the teacher started speaking the French terminology my brain went on the fritz. I legit knew nothing about ballet which made it harder to execute the majority of the exercises [because] I had to allow my body to move in ways I was not accustomed to. For me, my first ballet class was a true experience and truly needed because now I am familiar with the French words of ballet and have become a Male Ballet Dancer.
Q: There is a stigma about men who are male dancers in Barbados. Do you find as Barbados becomes more open-minded that this stigma is slowly eroding from society?
A: I do think the stigma is eroding from society as people are now seeing male dancers for the dancers that they are and not attaching their preferred career choice to assumptions about their personal lives. However, in some circles, people still tend to hold on to these perceived notions of male dancers. That is truly sad, but this is the society that we live in. Some things will move faster than some and others take a while.
Q: You are a dance teacher at Gentle Steps Academy. How did this come about?
A: [That came about] after attending the school in 2016 and becoming its first official male dancer. I then became quite skilled in the art form and I went on to study dance at the Barbados Community College from 2017-2019. I also participated in Summer Dance Incentives with the Barbados Dance Project and several dance workshops across the island. In 2018, I officially became a teacher at the Academy [because my training gave me plenty of knowledge in dance and made me eligible] to become a teacher.
Q: You were a member of the Barbados Dance Project from 2017-2019. Tell us a bit about that experience.
A: My experience with The Barbados Dance Project was quite fantastic, to be honest. It allowed me to build myself to become the dancer I dreamed of becoming. Being with the company allowed me to travel to Trinidad and Jamaica to showcase my talent. I have also been given opportunities to work with trained professional dancers and to learn from them. In addition to dancing, I have to conduct myself as a young professional as talent can only take me so far.
Q: You are about to complete your second degree in dance. Tell us a bit about the journey so far.
A: My journey to completing my degree in dance started with my first degree in Theatre Arts. While pursuing Theatre Arts I had the dream and goal to become a musical theatre performer. So, the plan was to do theatre and dance while doing vocal training.
My goals changed when I started the dance programme and I was eager to become stronger; [it] was my dream to become a professional in this art form. Doing the programme allowed me to train in the modern styles of Lester Horton, Katherine Dunham, and Martha Graham. [I] was also trained in Caribbean Dance and learned the Barbados Landship technique. However, it was not just dance. We were exposed to dance composition, dance in education and psychology while also being taught about the anatomy and how the body functions. The two years I have spent in the Barbados Community College Dance Programme have contributed heavily to my growth as a well-rounded performer as I continue on my path to becoming a professional in the field.
Q: What is one thing members of the public would not know about you?
A: One thing they would not know is that I am a pretty shy person [as] I get intimidated by large groups of people.
Q: What advice would you have for any young person seeking to have a career in dance?
A: My advice is that if you are truly serious about dance, train hard, push yourself and surround yourself with positive people who believe in you and want you to become the amazing dancer that you want to be.