"A Cultural Expose and Extravaganza," a lively and colorful production of the music and dances of the Virgin Islands, drew rave reviews from audiences Saturday.
The show, presented in the auditorium at St. Croix Educational Complex, was written by Eugene “Doc” Petersen in collaboration with Dimitri “Pikey” Copeman, Stanley Jacobs, Willard John, and Lauren Larsen.
“I loved it,” said attorney Stacey Plaskett. “I thought it was great. It really welled me up. It helped remind me of the necessity to preserve culture.”
She said she would have liked to have seen more children in attendance. The producers should take the show to local schools, she suggested.
Josh Henry, 12, called the show "different" and very nice. He said he liked the masqueraders and Indians most.
The show opened with a stage-left dialogue between Petersen and Copeman. The device continued throughout, providing a framework that told the story of how the music and dance evolved and described the people that preserved them. The sound was not perfect at times, but the old stagehands worked it out. The music came out loud and clear. A puff of smoke between acts set the stage to take the audience back to long ago.
“Of course with every kind of music there’s dance that goes along with it,” Petersen said.
The dancers spun and twirled across the stage in multi-colored, flouncing carnival dresses of years ago to the music of the Ten Sleepless Knights. During some of the dances had the audience clapping along.
Art forms represented included masqueraders, wild Indians, quadrille dance and quelbe music, cariso, kaiso, calypso, steel pan, limbo, and mocko jumbies. Many established culture bearers of today depicted the culture bearers of the past.
Some of the costumes were enhanced beautifully to make them more aesthetic and other costumes were left in their natural form as a reminder of the way it was. One of the masqueraders was dressed as a horned faceless creature in a red, long, shaggy full body costume. The Indian was bare chested and wore a beautiful head dress of long pheasant feathers.
In addition to the authors, many other cultural bearers performed, including Ay Ay Cultural Dancers with Kendell Henry, and members of the Caribbean Dance Compnay under the direction of Curliss Solomon-John,choreographer. The Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies performed under the leadership of Willard John. The Ten Sleepless Knights, King Derby and Cedelle Petersen provided music. Many performers from the Elena Christian Junior High School were involved and other members of the community who love to perform.
Petersen played a nice Crucian folk calypso guitar solo to round out the show.
And all the performers took part in the carnival-themed finale. Singers and dancers burst onto the stage with huge smiles. Ayo John, a Guardian of Culture mocko jumbie, showed his versatility by slithering under a limbo stick about 10 inches off the stage floor. He also played Goliath on stilts.
Wilma Fredericks, a local senior citizen, said she really enjoyed the show. Her favorite part were the Ay Ay Cultural Dancers doing the quadrille in pretty red, green and yellow madras dresses.
Paulette Gordon said the show was very entertaining, especially the finale.
The costumes, stage, and props were done by Petronila Encarnacion, Arlene Abrahams, Louise Samuel, Solomon-John and Petersen.
The show was videographed by WTJX, Channel 12, for archives. Funding was made in part by the Virgin Islands Humanities Council and the National Endowment for Humanities.