This past October, a team of NBS staff members travelled to North Preston, a community of 4,000 people located just outside Halifax. North Preston is the largest black community in Nova Scotia and Canada’s oldest. The town has played a very special role in Sharing Dance Canada 2017.
As NBS embarked on Sharing Dance Canada 2017, the team recognized that the sesquicentennial represented a unique opportunity to highlight the complexities of our past 150 years through the artistry of dance while also honouring where we are today as a nation. They decided that the 2017 Sharing Dance choreography should explore these complexities, and give voice and movement to Canada’s diversity and artistic identity.
To help achieve this goal, NBS organized a two-day Sharing Dance workshop at the North Preston Community Centre. Throughout the course of the weekend, Sharing Dance choreographer Eugene Baffoe, workshopped sections of movement with local youth. People of all ages were also given the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about the sesquicentennial, and to discuss their hopes for the next 150 years.
This initial visit marked the beginning of an ongoing relationship between NBS and the North Preston community, which deepened through additional Sharing Dance workshops held over the past several months. Working with LaMeia Reddick, a local community consultant, as well as Halifax Dance and Dance Nova Scotia, NBS organized public rehearsals at the community centre, and provided an iPad which allowed children and youth to access the online instructional videos.
On Sharing Dance Day, 80 students from three schools in the North Preston area travelled to Grand Parade in the heart of downtown Halifax. Field trips into Halifax are rare, and the students’ excitement and energy was evident from the moment they arrived. Throughout the event, they danced the Sharing Dance choreography along with the rest of the Halifax community, and enjoyed performances and workshops by professional artists.
NBS will continue sharing dance with North Preston over the coming year, and build upon the community ties that have been established. Over the long term, NBS hopes to become recognized as a valued community partner with the people of North Preston, sharing dance and their story with wider Halifax and the rest of Canada.