VICA Fundraiser: A Madras Night in Frederiksted

Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights – decked out in Madras – perform Saturday at the Madras Dance. (Source photo by Denise Lenhardt-Benoit)
Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights – decked out in Madras – perform Saturday at the Madras Dance. (Source photo by Denise Lenhardt-Benoit)
Mercedes Navarro and Kristin Davis enjoy the evening at the Dorsch Center in Frederksted. (Source photo by Denise Lenhardt-Benoit)
Mercedes Navarro and Kristin Davis enjoy the evening at the Dorsch Center in Frederiksted. (Source photo by Denise Lenhardt-Benoit)

The first Virgin Islands Center for the Arts Madras Dance took place Saturday evening, featuring Crucian mainstays Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights.

Guests danced to the traditional sounds of St. Croix’s favorite musical son until midnight, at the Dorsch Center in Frederiksted.

Almost everyone in attendance arrived wearing their finest Madras attire, the bright colored cloth that has been a source of cultural pride here in the Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean. The colorful, plaid fabric that originated in the Indian city formerly known as Madras has become a staple of West Indian culture.

The evening’s menu was prepared by Teddy’s Catering and offered a wide array of choices, including a bountiful crudité and fruit platter, cold salads, barbecue chicken, shrimp, pasta, meatballs, spring rolls, light desserts and so much more.

Daily downpours over the past week seemed to suggest the event might be rained out, but by early evening clear skies prevailed, much to the satisfaction of VICA Vice Chairwoman Claire Roker.

“This is our first fundraiser of the year. It was originally planned for early December 2019, but with so many holiday events planned all over the island, we decided to wait until the new year,” Roker said. “I would like to take this time to remind our artists, teachers, crafts persons and cultural organizations in the community that the Dorsch Center is here for them to showcase and promote their artistic talents.”

Krystel Compton, Glenn Davis and Amabel Compton at the VICA Madras Dance. (Source photo by Denise Lenhardt-Benoit)
Krystel Compton, Glenn Davis and Amabel Compton at the VICA Madras Dance. (Source photo by Denise Lenhardt-Benoit)

One proposal for the theater in the planning stages is a drama workshop that will allow students to improve their speech and hone their acting skills. The brainchild of Sayeeda Carter, a speech and drama teacher at the St. Croix Educational Complex, the workshop will focus on animal tales from throughout the African diaspora and the writings of Delta Dorsch, renowned educator, storyteller and guardian of Virgin Islands culture. Enrollment will be open to students from the 4th through 8th grades during the summer school break. Carter explained why a project of this nature is so important.

“Theater enhances your ability to communicate effectively, it builds relationships, teaches empathy and compassion. As a community, it is imperative that we change the trajectory of our youth within the territory. We can help them learn about building ensembles and reaching consensus. Pivotal skills that are essential as they progress to higher grades and adulthood,” Carter said.

Saturday, door prizes from St. Croix retailers were awarded to lucky ticket holders and gift bags filled with traditional Crucian candy and baked treats were given to each guest.

As the evening ended, Kendell Henry, a member of Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights reflected on the joy the band experienced being honored during the 2019-2020 Crucian Festival and their plans for 2020.

“This festival season will always remain one of the most memorable for us as a band. We were deeply honored and grateful for the love and support we received from the community. Now that the new year is here, we will continue the momentum gained from Festival as we celebrate our 50th anniversary throughout the coming year,” Henry said.

The Virgin Islands Council on the Arts is an agency funded by the Government of the Virgin Islands and the National Endowment for the Arts. Founded in 1966, the council secures local and federal funds and regrants them to schools, churches, visual and performing artists, writers, culture bearers and other artisans. The council also creates opportunities for Virgin Islanders to participate in exhibitions and artistic events in the Caribbean, West Africa, Europe and the United States.

Almost as important a cultural tradition in the Virgin Islands as Madras is dancing the Electric Slide at almost any event. (Source photo by Denise Lenhardt-Benoit)
Almost as important a cultural tradition in the Virgin Islands as Madras is dancing the electric slide at almost any event. (Source photo by Denise Lenhardt-Benoit)
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