On a calm morning, Renee McDonald visited the “Grade Six Believers” at Boys Town Infant and Primary School. After introducing herself, she asked the students to introduce themselves by telling her what their favourite hobby was. Subsequently, Renee went on to explain that her favourite thing to do is, and has always been, dancing. Subsequently, her passion lead her to became a professional dancer and a choreographer.
With an emphasis on teaching, Renee asked the class what would happen if she broke her foot or her back. One very spirited student said “Miss you would be done for!” Accordingly, Renee exclaimed “Exactly! That is why it is important to always have a back-up plan”. She articulated to the class that even though she is currently making money from dance and she loves it, she made sure to have a back-up plan. To this, Renee spoke to the class about how she balances between dance and her education. Surprisingly, she has been dancing since the tender age of 7, and started making money professionally at 15 years old.
As a professional, Renee was a freelance dancer and practiced the art of Modern Contemporary Dance. She also has her first degree in marketing and a Masters in Law from the University of the West Indies. She is now in Law School. One student calmly interrupted and asked coyly “Miss, you don’t really look like you still dance, so you still dance or are you like retired”. The question had the students and adults alike in hysterics and Renee confidently reassured him that he was in fact correct. She retired at 26 from being a full time dancer and now only teaches and choreographs dances.
Renee’s Versatility Conquers All
Her enthusiasm and vivaciousness captivated the class who questioned and commented on Renee’s stories as a professional dancer. They queried about how she managed all her long practice hours. To which, Renee shared that just like them and their love for football, cricket, or anything else, no matter how tired she got, she was ready to get up and do it again the following day. She recanted how dance has taken her to new places and has allowed her to meet new people.
In addition to performing on stage for various dance productions she has performed at stage shows as well as in music videos for artistes such as Kabaka Pyramid and Protoje. A very quiet child l at the back of the class asked her if she ever got nervous or embarrassed when she had to perform. Renee exclaimed a resounding “YES! I always get nervous right before I have to go on stage. Also, when my piece is about the be performed, I get very nervous.”
The class erupted in laughter and giggles as she told them that she has been embarrassed while performing as pieces of her costume have fallen off or even she herself has fallen on the stage. In response to the laughter, Renee asked the class what they thought she did when she was embarrassed. She then asked what they would do if it happened to them. One student said he would run off the stage and another said that he would just stay on the floor; another child said that he would throw the whole stage away; eventually one student said she would just continue as if nothing happened. Renee told the students that is exactly what she did as the show must go on.
With all the laughter and questions Renee made sure to reiterate to the students how important it is to always have a back-up plan. She also encouraged the students to pursue education if following their dream involves performing in sports or dance. She went on to explain that they have to work hard on their dreams while paying attention to their education to find balance.
Never Stop Pushing To Your Goal
In the pursuit of dance, Renee told the class that if they want to dance they can go the traditional route. That route is joining a dance company such as Ashe’ or any of the many others. She also urged them to enroll at the only school in the Caribbean that offers a degree in Dance, Edna Manley. In contrast, Renee explained that Dancehall dancers have to practice and find ways to market themselves. She explained that this is done by going to events along with trying to enter competitions such as Dancing Dynamites.
One student thanked Renee for her advice. He continued, “Miss one time I wanted to be a dancer but I retire from that, and now I am going to be a baller.”
Straight Talk ended with dance as students got up to show Aunty Renee how to dance. The young choreographers taught Renee and Uncle Charles how to’Fling’ and “Lebeh Lebeh”. Both dances were popularized by Ding Dong of the Ravers Clavers dance group. It was a truly warming experience seeing the students thoroughly enjoying their moments with Aunty Renee.