PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – A record-breaking 180 creatives from St. Maarten/St. Martin and other countries are expected to attend the 9th edition of Art Saves Lives (ASL) Summer Intensive from Monday, July 4 to Friday, July 8, 2022.
Joining more than 150 local students, will be dancers from St. Kitts, Nevis, Florida, and Holland.
This year, the week-long program will be conducted at three locations on the island. There will be a Music and Youth Orchestra program operating at the National Institute of Arts (NIA) with Conductor Marlon Daniel. The Intensive program will be held at INDISU Dance Theater of St. Maarten and will include Advanced Hip Hop, Afro Soca Dance and St. Maarten Traditional Dance & Song. The Community Outreach sessions include Tap and Percussive Dance with Maud Arnold and West African Dance with Karisma Jay heads to Concordia, St. Martin.
Started in 2013 by St. Maarten national and former Broadway dancer Nicole De Weever, ASL is a registered foundation which provides young artists the opportunity to participate in masterclasses and to be mentored by internationally renowned creatives.
“I created the program because I wanted to provide the opportunity for young people in St. Maarten and the region who may not have access to taking classes from some of the most respected artists and teachers in the industry,” said De Weever, who is based in New York. “The caliber of teaching artists and instructors every year are a selection of my dream team.”
In July, De Weever’s dream team of 24 includes the first African American woman Dean of the Julliard Dance Department Alicia Graf Mack, the Director of Strategy and Operations at Google Dale Allsopp, Living Legend George Faison, the first African American to win a Tony Award for Choreographer on Broadway and Clara Reyes, who she calls “St. Maarten’s National Treasure” and the gatekeeper of the island’s cultural dance and song.
Reyes said the ASL intensive week is a mutually beneficial journey for all and a complement to the year-round training that local students receive at Imbali, Motiance Dance School, NIA, and in other local creative institutions.
“The artistes come and find students who are prepared at a high standard to take in what they have to share,” added Reyes. “What ASL has done in reciprocity is that St. Maarten artists are being exposed to something larger than themselves. It raises their level of development to meet the world.”
This is proven in the impact that several ASL alumni are now having across the globe. Natorii Illidge, a former primary school dance teacher who attended the event in 2014 and 2016 is now part of the West End London cast of Tina Turner Musical. She can also be spotted as one of the Cuban Dancer’s in James Bond No Time to Die.
Dancer and Deejay Bianca Dijkhoff with her iconic bright red hair and energetic moves is front and center in music videos from Sean Paul to Chris Brown and Skip Marley. She credits De Weever and the mentorship of Social Media Expert and Coach Leslie Samuel for helping her to follow her dreams and build her brand.
“Every (ASL) teacher I’ve connected with has tried to help in numerous ways from advice to helping me find apartments in New York to sending me audition opportunities and overall rooting for me along my journey,” shared Dijkhoff.
The program which held a virtual edition in 2020 due to the pandemic is supported by locally owned businesses. This keeps it free for the students and covers the expenses of all the instructors who volunteer their time.
“I am super grateful to the community. Thanks to the consistent support of the businesses and St. Maarten Tourist Bureau for being one of my most loyal sponsors. This year the French Tourism department has contributed in a very significant way by purchasing the flights for 19 teaching artists. It truly takes a village. I have leaned on so many people to assist and without everyone’s effort ASLF would not exist.
“It is important to create safe spaces for our young people to explore and nurture their talent. I had the privilege and support from family that allowed me to dream proactively. This is not the case for many young people. They are usually discouraged, especially in our region, from pursuing creative careers. I genuinely want to provide that opportunity for every child to explore and tap into what excites them in life. We all deserve to honor our passion and desires to be whatever we want to be in this life,” De Weever said.
The 2022 Art Saves Lives Summer Intensive will culminate with a final showcase at the Philipsburg Cultural Centre Saturday, July 9 at 7PM.
Learn more about Art Saves Lives Foundation at https://