Sparky honoured at launch of Gombey festival
A veteran Gombey dancer was honoured yesterday at the launch of a festival to celebrate the island’s iconic dancers.
Leon “Sparky” Place, a former dancer and drummer with Place’s Gombeys, as well as traditional dancers from overseas were at Victoria Park in Hamilton to publicise today’s Bermuda International Gombey Festival Showcase.
Lovitta Foggo, the acting social development and sports minister, joined Bermudian troupes Place’s and Warwick Gombeys, as well as the Hermitage Shortknee Band from Grenada at the park.
Ms Foggo gave special recognition to Mr Place, who was recruited into the troupe when he was 10 with his brothers, Dennis and Reginald Jr.
She said: “He had little choice in the matter — his father, known as ‘Scranny’, was the group’s founder and captain, and Gombey was a family affair.” Mr Place succeeded his brother Dennis as captain in the late 1970s.
Ms Foggo said Mr Place was a disciplined mentor for younger dancers and was “exceptionally creative”.
She added that Mr Place had added more than ten original steps to the troupe’s repertoire.
However, Ms Foggo said: “Perhaps his most enduring contribution to the art is as a master costume designer.”
She explained that he had pioneered the use of wool fringes on the Gombey regalia, an innovation that brought new dynamism to dance moves.
Ms Foggo said the annual festival was set up to highlight the contribution of folk dancers who represented a tradition “passed down the ages, from generations of master Gombey dancers”.
She was speaking as Zayd Saleen, from St Croix in the US Virgin Islands, walked through Victoria Park on stilts, which are a symbol of the islands’ Moko Jumbies’ towering role as protectors.
Bermuda’s six Gombey troupes will join international guests today at the main show ring at Paget’s Botanical Gardens.
The free event is scheduled to run from 5pm to 9pm.
A symposium, called Gombeys and Traditions of the Diaspora, will be held tomorrow at the CedarBridge Academy cafeteria from 2pm to 4pm.
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