Because he is a talented dancer, Amal Bryson has been given the chance of a lifetime – a scholarship from St. Croix Pride to train and dance with KasheDance, a contemporary dance company founded by Jamaican Kevin Ormsby, now based in Canada.
Bryson is 20 years old and will be a senior at Virginia State University in the fall. He has already traveled down a difficult and unusual life path.
“You grow in a box on St. Croix but stretch out in Virginia,” Bryson said.
Both parents affected and influenced Bryson. His father died when he was 10 years old, and after that he decided to live his life out loud. His father’s death was very hard for him, he said.
“I knew from a young age who I was and was brave enough to stand there and be myself,” he told the Source.
His mother reggae artist Mada Nile, a single mother raising a family, instilled the value of discipline and he inherited her love of music.
Music and dance have been Bryson’s focus since he started singing and dancing at Evelyn Williams Elementary School. He eventually concentrated on dance through high school, performing and teaching with Music in Motion. At Virginia State, he is the dance captain of Sankofa Dance Theater and has performed in Denmark, Harlem and Atlanta.
Joseph Bess, chairman of St. Croix Pride, has seen Bryson dance over the years and recommended him for the Pride scholarship to KasheDance. They sent the young dancer to Toronto for three weeks, where he learned the numbers in time to perform with the company at Island Center in June.
Bryson also took part in a number of the Pride events last month.
“Pride is the best thing I’ve ever done, the best feeling ever,” he said. “The community coming together to support and understand each other.”
And performing with KasheDance has been a homecoming as well. The dance company comprises LGBT+ members and the routines are about living in the Caribbean community as a gay man, woman or transgender individual. The dancers are accompanied by Bob Marley music.
Bryson calls himself “queer,” and said he has been able to tie into the dance emotionally because he has experienced hurtful treatment and bullying throughout his life.
“The choreography was difficult but the emotional part was the most difficult,” Bryson said.
The dance numbers are taken from the Jamaican culture and every step has a reason or point to it. Some steps express strength, some the struggle and others exhibit freedom, he said.
Bryson said it will be easy to commute to Toronto from Virginia. He will practice as much as he can and hopes to perform again with the company in March.
In the coming years, Bryson said he plans dance as often and as long as he can in the coming years. After that he will return to his home – St. Croix. Bryson is majoring in marine biology and will earn a minor in dance. He also enjoys studying psychology.
But, he will always fit dance into his schedule.
“I’m fully committed to acting and dance. When I follow that dream, I’ll be fulfilled. And, I’ll return back home,” he said.
When Bryson comes home, he will use his degree to build an aquarium and fill it with the sea life found in our waters. And he will always send a message to the public to accept the LGBT+ community.
“We need the public to understand that people fear what they don’t understand. Children are taught to judge or hate. The cycle needs to be broken – teach children, love is love,” he said. “We all should live by the golden rule.”