Sales were brisk at the recent book launch of Dance Bermuda, a one of a kind new book celebrating the history of dance, from the 1700s to today, by author Conchita Ming.
The book, which culminates ten years of research and interviews, retails for $45, but already there’s a growing number of readers who say the contents are priceless.
Bermuda Real spoke with the author shortly after the book launch in July. Ms Ming said: “I was thrilled that the reception of the book was so positive and supportive of the work.
“The book is on sale at the Bookmart (Brown & Co), Bermuda Book Store and Robertson’s, in St George’s. I spent the afternoon at Bookmart for book signing. People were very interested in the content of the book,” she said. Numerous books were sold and quite a number of people said that they definitely would return to buy the book.
“This book was a project that took me ten years to complete. I conducted interviews with key figures in dance; obtained biographies on dance groups and schools, dancers, teachers, choreographers; and researched all thing related to dance in Bermuda through the local newspapers,” said Ms Ming.
“Going through every newspaper from 1784 up to the 60s was arduous but rewarding. I learned a lot!”
The award-winning Bermudian dancer and choreographer, explored the art form’s evolution, from British roots to country and folk dancing, the influence of gombeys and military regiments, hotel extravaganzas, and the many schools and individuals that have helped drive the popularity of dance in Bermuda.
Ms Ming’s career in dance spans more than 25 years as a teacher at the Jackson School of Performing Arts, and as a co-founder of the Bermuda Dance Theatre/National Dance Theatre of Bermuda.
Her passion for the arts also prompted her decision to go with pastel works by Bermudian artist Sharon Wilson, as illustrative plates introducing each of the book’s ten chapters in the 176-page edition produced by Brimstone Media.
“I knew that Sharon Wilson had done a series of painting of dancers,” she said. “I actually have two. I am a huge fan of Sharon Wilson’s work and thought that her dancer works would create the perfect imagery for the book. I am very grateful that she has allowed the works to be featured in Dance Bermuda,” she added.
When contacted by Bermuda Real, Ms Wilson recalled “wanting to do a series of classical dancers” about thirty years ago.
“I don’t know why but I couldn’t get my nerve up to ask another dance teacher if I could stand quietly in a corner and photograph her class. I had already been turned down with the excuse that I would be a distraction,” she said.
“Someone urged me on. Conchita was at the college rehearsing for a production. I’ll always remember, she simply said ‘yes’, I was so grateful that I never moved from my spot even though she didn’t caution me about distracting her students. I didn’t want her to regret her decision.
“She welcomed me. I get very emotional about things like that. I was so grateful. I photographed them at rest, I knew that I wanted my dancer on the beach. I dreamed of classical dress, toe shoes, the whitecaps of the ocean, and in my mind, Rachmaninoff on the piano.
“I’d loved Gaugin’s dancers but I longed to see a black classical dancer, an island classical dancer with ocean. I knew I’d never rest until I could place my dancer where she belonged and now I have. That’s the story of Ebb Tide,” Ms Wilson said.
“I painted ‘Ode to a Teacher’ for the special seeds planted by effective teachers in the souls of their students, the love of learning and the belief in possibilities,” she added.
“Conchita opened the door for me to come in. I never forgot that, such a small thing, such a big thing. Look, we have come full circle. The totality of that exchange only really came to me when I stood at the back of Gallery 117 on Front Street at the book signing. The art works beautifully with the book, how could they not? What goes around… right?”
From a project that started as a way “to educate our young people about dancers” who performed in Bermuda over the last half-century, in the fullness of time, this book has evolved into a must-have keepsake for the posterity of Bermuda’s vibrant and diverse cultural history.