Posted on July 03 2019
Krystal Clarke is a Year 4 teacher at St. Edmund's Catholic Primary School in North London and founder of the Caribella Dance Company for girls. Born and raised in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, she emigrated to England at 28. She has been a teacher for most of her adult life and has always enjoyed dance and drama from a young age. She is one of the most influential women in her community, working hard to mentor the girl child through dance.
After attending and being impressed by the first and sold-out Caribella Dance Company Show last year, I was eager to share Krystal's story, what inspires her and how she is helping shape young minds. I got in touch with her and here's the interview.
You are a primary school teacher and dance choreographer, how did you first develop an interest in dance?
My interest in dance developed as a young girl of four when my mother enrolled me in the Avenue Dancers Dance Company. After a few years, the group ceased operation and I joined a few other companies over the years. When the Avenue Dancers restarted, in the late 90’s, my dance teacher and mentor, Bridget John suggested that I come on as her assistant which I did. After working along with her for 5 years, I was promoted to Business Manager and Choreographer. I continued our working relationship which saw the production of over 10 Dance Showcases and the training of hundreds of girls and young ladies until I moved here about 4 years ago.
You have a degree in Learning Disability Studies from the University of Manchester and have completed postgraduate studies at Anglia Ruskin and Middlesex Universities so you already have a strong background and successful career as a teacher, what inspired you to start Caribella Dance Company?
I don't know about strong and successful yet, but thank you.
My inspiration for Caribella developed from my love of dance, drama and working with children, particularly young girls. When I moved here, I missed the creative outlet and positive opportunities to impact on the lives of others that the Avenue Dancers provided and wanted to recapture that element in my life. Most importantly, I recognise the support and positive impact such groups can have on the development of young girls particularly in today’s society where there are so many negative influences plaguing the lives of our young people. After the encouragement of my husband, I decided to launch the Caribella Dance Company and in May 2017, I did just that. We had our first Showcase on the 21st of July in 2018 and I was pleased with its success and motivated to do more.
And it was a fantastic show with a lot of strong life lessons. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Thanks, that is the main idea, to teach our girls in a way that they enjoy. They are more likely to retain the message.
What advice do you have for individuals interested in setting up a community project such as yours?
My advice would be to go out on a limb and take a leap of faith. Trust in your talents and skills and do not let fear dictate or self-doubt dictate the decisions you make.
Let's talk about your most recent project.
Yes that would be our annual Showcase celebrations. I am currently working on that with the girls. This year, our theme is (The journey to) ‘Becoming a Woman of Strength’ and we intend to showcase that journey through drama and dance.
That's such a powerful theme, what inspired you to choose it?
The theme came to me after reading Michelle Obama’s biography ‘Becoming’ where she chronicled her life’s experience and the journey to becoming the First Lady of the United States of America. It made me consider my own incomplete journey in life and also the journey that my daughter and my dancers are currently taking, the difficulties, the trails and that includes all the exhilarating experiences they will face on their own individual journeys. Michelle's autobiography is a must read, I highly recommend it.
As for the girls, they have been working really hard for hours each week to ensure an excellent presentation on the 13th.
Its sounds promising. When and where will it be held?
The show is Saturday July the 13th at the Latymer Grammar School in Edmonton.
How does preparation for this show compare to last years' show?
Preparations this year have been definitely more challenging. This project is one that I do single-handedly and often times, juggling my career, weekend tutoring and the dance group can be difficult. The group has also grown in number which requires additional effort in ensuring each girl is performing at their very best. In comparison, last year, I was fortunate to have family and friends visit from St. Vincent to help in the overall preparations. I am however sure that when the day arrives, we will put on an incredible performance that satisfy everyone and give them more than their money’s worth of entertainment.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced on this project and how did you overcome them?
Children and parents tend to be very busy on a Saturday. It’s the day for family gatherings, birthday parties, tuition and other events and this often coincides with dance rehearsals. As a result, children miss rehearsal times which means that future lessons are spent re-teaching what was done previously. This then sets us behind schedule as it relates to preparing for the Showcase.
To overcome challenges, I used a buddy system whereby the girls would teach their partners new choreography. I also booked additional rehearsal times however this resulted in the additional challenge of funding to cover rental costs.
We hope in the future to partner with various organisations and business houses that can support us and help defray the overall costs of managing such an enterprise.
You are doing an incredible job at managing all your responsibilities, you must be very very organised. What organisational tools do you swear by?
Again, you are being very kind, thank you.
(I smile back)
That's because it is true.
I do not really swear by any particularly named tools. Prioritising tasks and developing multitasking skills have been key in my ability to successfully manage the Company. Understanding my limits and knowing when to stop and take a break have been crucial as well.
You are always dressed for success. Which do you live by, fashion or style and why?
I love accessories and it’s my favourite part of shopping so naturally I am drawn to scarves and jewellery. I love the Leanne Claxton range of silk scarfs, they uplift any outfit. Your minimalist and modern jewellery is perfect for any occasion. Both the scarves and jewellery collections are timeless pieces that can be worn for years to come, definitely well curated!
(We both smile)
Thank you. What about beauty products? What's the one product you can't live without and why?
I don’t use much beauty products. I do however use raw aloe vera as a face mask and as a means to cleanse my scalp as I suffer from dry skin. I buy it fresh from a local green grocer and prepare the masks myself.
It's been a great pleasure talking with you and thank you for all you are contributing to the community and for your time today. But before we finish, what do you have planned for us in the next 6 months /year?
Thank you, I have enjoyed doing this too.
As for my future plans, I am currently writing a script for a Christmas Play which we intend to present to our family and friends over the Christmas Season.
Yes, and thank you! I am actively seeking sponsorship for the girls so we can host a weekend camp and conference on the theme of empowerment and developing self-pride and self-confidence for the girls.
This year we were sponsored by Lexus Woodford who contributed towards the purchasing of props for the dance performances. Their sponsorship will enable us to create an even bigger show compared to the one we held last year so I am very grateful.
And in another year, we will be producing our third Showcase!
And I am sure it will be even bigger!
Naturally! (She laughs, we both laugh)
The Caribella end of year show will be held at Latymer Grammar School in Edmonton on Saturday the 13th of July 2019 from 5 pm till 7 pm. For ticket enquiries please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope to see you there!
Interview by Arikana for MYSTYLIST LONDON follow Arikana @labbooksandstylefiles