St. John’s Dynamic Dancers have had an exciting summer, and it’s only June. Led by Pat Richards, the Dynamic Dancers, recently returned from the mainland, where they performed in a New Hampshire dance recital titled “The Good Old Days.”
The Dynamic Dancers are a local dance group with girls ages 3 to 16. They perform a fusion of calypso, hip hop, and gymnastics. Their performance in the New Hampshire recital as well as at an elementary school was done in collaboration with Lakes Region Dance Studio in Meredith, New Hampshire. The invitation came after Dynamic Dancer De-neicia Baxter became pen pals with one of the Lakes Region Dancers.
During the week they spent on the trip, the group got to experience scenic train rides, a theme park and new dance styles such as belly dancing. They celebrated a birthday, and got to practice their tumbling techniques with professionals.
The group has performed at events throughout St. Thomas Carnival and St. John Festival, as well as in recitals and performances on the mainland.
What began as a trio five years ago has expanded into a group of 38 members strong. Founding members 12-year-old Nitta George, and 12-year-old De-neicia Baxter are in seventh and sixth grades respectively at the Gifft Hill School, and are part of the driving force behind many of the routines the group performs. Dances are also choreographed by Jada JnPhillip, and Negesti Denis.
Group director Richards said it’s only natural for the girls to take ownership of the choreography.
“Since they are the ones doing the dance, they should be the ones to decide what they do,” Richards said. “If I like how it looks we’ll put it into a routine. They are fully capable of doing it, so I see no reason to hire another person to come in and do it. They are the future. When given the chance, who knows where they will go?”
The Dynamic Dancers goal is to serve a need in the community: positive recreational activities for children of lower-income families.
“I want to concentrate on those who cannot afford to take dance classes,” Richards said. “I want them to connect with other kids all over St. John, and I want them to be able to see the world.”
“I love everything about being in the group,” Baxter said. “The only hard part is smiling in practice. I don’t like to smile in practice, but I always remember to do it on stage.”
“I love everything about it,” she said. “I like to dance and being on stage. Dancing is awesome.”
Hurricanes Irma and Maria impacted the Dynamic Dancers, as it did many youth groups in the territory, But in the months since the storms the group has flourished.
“We did lose our practice space in the Housing Parks and Recreation building, but we have been able to use the School of the Arts instead. We actually got more dancers after the hurricanes” Richards said.
Traveling is an exciting, but not new, development for the group. In May 2017 the group was invited to Rochester, New York, to participate in a dance recital with the program Dancing with Denise, run by Denise Baller. Baller assisted the Dynamic Dancers with a dance recital they held that same year, and from there extended an invitation for them to perform at her studio in New York.
Funds needed to purchase costumes and take trips are donated by the community, and fundraised through cake sales and water sales. Fundraisers are organized by the girls.
Richards said she hopes to open a full dance studio, and also incorporate boys into the group.
Richards is very much a maternal figure for the girls in her group, and she takes time to guide them through any difficulties they face outside of practicing and performing.
She gives them this advice to live by: “It’s not about what you’re called. It’s what you answer to.”
Donations for the Dynamic Dancers can be sent to P.O. Box 999, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, 00831. They can be booked to perform through Pat Richards at 340-626-4804 or 340-513-9937.