Where Has The Old Man Fixer In Tou Story Been Talking to One of Jamaica’s Most Exciting Dancer-Choreographers – Neila Ebanks

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Talking to One of Jamaica’s Most Exciting Dancer-Choreographers – Neila Ebanks

YES: Why are you an artist/dancer and when did you become one?

Neila: I think I was born one. My dance story begins when I was 3 or 4 years old. My mother sent me to dance classes to reshape my pigeon toes and I have been dancing ever since. It is a language as natural to me as air.

My talent chose me. I wasn’t the one who started the relationship. But every day I make a decision to affirm my life through my connection with Dance. It’s a guarantee of life for me.

HE: How would you describe your work?

Neila: Emotional, cathartic, layered. I usually don’t go for the simple or the obvious. I feel that I use my choreography to fight and use my thoughts about life and life. My favorite form of choreography has always been Modern Dance because it can be anything you put your mind to.

HE: What kind of dance do you do?

Neila: I am a contemporary dancer who LOVES to perform well.

YES: Which company/group do you dance with, if any?

Neila: I currently dance with eNKompan.E, which is my company… of one. I have performed and toured with Stella Maris Dance Ensemble, The University Dance Society, The NDTC, L’ACADCO, Dance Theater Xaymaca and several companies in the UK.

HE: Which artists/dancers have influenced you and how?

Neila: I owe a lot to many. My foundational influences have been my first dance teachers, Monika Lawrence, Carol Murdock (now deceased) and Patsy Ricketts, all of whom nurtured my passion for dance at a very young age without any support.

I was taken as a young artist in the making and learned a lot of skills and respect for my art from these teachers. Patsy, in particular, gave me excellent examples of how to use it. I carry that with me to this day. I am also inspired by Nicholeen DeGrasse-Johnson, who is now the Director of the School of Dance. Through his example I have understood the importance of dance skills education.

My years at UWI saw me working with Joseph Robinson, L’Antoinette Stines and Howard Daly, each of them broadened the range of dance for me, showing me another side, another side of the prism, another possibility – L’Antoinette and her depth. connection through spiritual dance with parents; Joe, with his persistent strong sense of the impossible; Howard, and his willingness to take risks with content and show.

It goes without saying (though I will), that I have also been influenced by Professor Rex Nettleford and the NDTC. Every summer of my passionate dance years I spent @ NDTC’s Dance season, developing visual education in dance, gymnastics and performance. Furthermore, Professor Nettleford’s bilingual (artistic and verbal) intelligence helped me to experience both sides of myself and to see the wonderful complementarity of the opposing mind and the moving body.

The training of Arsenio Andrade, the principal dancer of the NDTC and the teacher of the Cuban-Modern method also played an important role in my understanding of the connection between the body and the rhythm and the space. I have also been blessed with contemporaries such as Chris Walker, Shelley-Ann Maxwell, Marlon Simms, Michael Holgate and Oniel Pryce, who, through their willingness to find expression through art and performance strengthen my resolve, day in and day out.

Internationally I have been influenced by the work of contemporary music artists including Jiri Kylian, Lloyd Newson (DV8 Physical Theatre), Ulysses Dove, Bill T. Jones, Twyla Tharp and Mia Michaels.

HE: What other hobbies do you have outside of dancing?

Neila: I enjoy reading everything. I’m also crazy about yoga. I plan on horse riding and karate.

HE: What keeps you motivated when things get tough?

Neila : A dream that was buried in my soul. When things get tough, I have to turn inward and remember the dream and the right thoughts that dream brings.

HE: Which dance companies do you admire?

Neila: I’ve been enjoying the real pieces from our great Jamaican companies – new and old works. As for Jamaican dancers, a few of those who have touched my heart include Patsy Ricketts, Arlene Richards, Natalie Chung, Arsenio Andrade, N’Jelle Gage, Simone Harris, Marlon Simms, Chris Walker, Shelley-Ann Maxwell, Anika Jobson, Sade Bully, Guy Thorne. Their dedication on the field and their honesty on stage is impressive.

Internationally I enjoy the work of DV8 Physical Theatre, Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, Kettly Noel and Urban Bush Women among others.

HE: What are the best and worst parts of being a dancer?

Neila : Dancing can make you happy. When you put in the time and effort in practice and classes, your emotional reward is often enough. Knowing that you can communicate big and small thoughts without words and beyond that, touching someone’s heart through your art is what keeps me coming back to Dance. In addition, it is wonderful to have a complete and connected knowledge of your body and its capabilities.

The physical conditioning itself can be the worst part, if one does not handle the changes and rest properly. Dance is first and foremost a physical skill, so the body will fall, get hurt, need to heal. For some, it will never be the same again as it was before the injury so the dancer has to wrap his mind around it and move on with life. It sounds simple, but it is very difficult.

HE: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Neila: In 10 years I would have just turned 40. I will be in my prime and still on stages around the world, performing and leading workshops…enriching lives through Dance. My company will be very successful and will create opportunities for others who want to dance their lives away.

YES: How would you describe the dance world in Jamaica?

Neila: Rich and fertile in spirit, but too divided to develop properly. We have a lot of choreographers who enjoy the challenges of expressing their thoughts through their bodies, but I see that many are trying to express themselves in the same way. I don’t see the real opportunity being taken often (I’m guilty of this too). I feel like we are going backwards and trying to stay with the status quo. Currently, there is no forum for dialogue and cooperation at a very deep level.

HE: If you could do anything you wanted, what would it be?

Neila : I am making it now. The only thing I would add is international travel and income.

HE: How did you develop your skills?

Neila: I studied dance and theater in Jamaica and the UK, at Edna Manley College and the University of Surrey (MA Physical Theatre). However, every day I improve my skills, because every day I learn more about my skills.

HE: Do you dance professionally? eg Getting paid to dance? Do you want to?

Neila: I dance professionally, I choreograph professionally, I study professionally.

HE: What goes through your head when you play?

Neila : A difficult question. Sometimes there is an inner story, images that I remember that help me to interpret it more clearly. Sometimes there are statistics. Sometimes I listen to my music, and look for signs of movement. Sometimes I have a quick connection with the audience or someone on stage. Sometimes there is damage to clothes or other mistakes and I have many steps in my mind, fixing them. There are times when the joy of my body is on autopilot. And all of this can be done in 30 seconds or less of dancing.

HE: What gets you up in the morning?

Neila: God is the gift of life. Realizing that my first breath in the morning means I have something to do. I couldn’t.

HE: Final thoughts?

Neila : If you have music in your heart please sing…. Dance please do it till the street. We all come here with our talents and people tell us to hide them because it makes us too strong to fit in with anyone else. I say do what your heart tells you to do and everyone else will want to be with you. That’s why you were created in the first place.

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