Steps with passionate Pearl . . .
Name: Pearl-Ann Hinds
Education: Harrison College; Barbados Community College; Belhaven University.
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science in arts administration; Associate degree in dance.
Occupation: Principal, executive director of Pearls Dance Academy (www.pearlannhinds.com)
Who is Pearl-Ann Hinds?
I am a gifted dancer, administrator, educator, entrepreneur and choreographer, who has a keen sense of purpose.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about helping people awaken and develop their inner voice. I believe that an individual’s inner voice is the unique pearl inside that makes them who they are. Even the Caribbean has a voice.
I have a strong passion for seeing Barbados and the Caribbean possess the potential to develop our artistic voice through a regional performing arts brand.
Do you have a philosophy that you live by?
Don’t be ashamed of your story; it will inspire others. Be intentional, purpose-driven and God-centred.
How long have you been dancing, and when did your interest in the art begin?
I’ve been dancing for 19 years. My interest in the art of dance began in church when I realized that my movement had the power to change and uplift others.
Many would have assumed that having completed secondary school at Harrison College, you would have furthered your education in an academic field. Did you face any opposition making this decision and what was the driving force behind it?
To be very honest, I didn’t encounter much opposition. I am blessed with supportive parents who believe in my gift. The only opposition was internally when I felt like I was going against the norm of those in my year group. I still feel that to this day. But my driving force comes out of a decision I made at a young age.
I decided that if my body was designed to dance, if my waking hours were consumed by choreographic ideas and images, then dance I must. So when the time came to transition into higher education, and Harrison College didn’t offer what I wanted to do, I looked for the next best option offered in Barbados.
Having a love for dance and being enrolled in a programme of dance are two different things. What expectations did you have going in and what were some of the things you learnt during the programme?
First off, I must give kudos to the Barbados Community College Associate degree in dance programme for being
so instrumental in shaping young dancers for the professional world.
One may wonder: why go from secondary school to a dance programme in Barbados? Why not go overseas? I wanted to secure my Barbadian dance roots, as I love my country. I also wanted to be in an environment where I could be stretched (literally) while preparing myself for an undergraduate degree in dance. Those were my two expectations and I can safely say that they were met.
While in the programme I was able to learn from Barbados’s top dance professionals, which was an honour. I was also able to build good relationships with my classmates. Having gone through the programme I’ve learnt that the foundation is only as good as the investment put into it.
In my case, it was an investment of sweat, tears, laughter, learning about dance history and dance pedagogy. I also learnt that I didn’t know as much as I thought and I always needed to let go of old ways of thinking to embrace
Having been a dancer for so many years, I must ask, have you been to NIFCA, and have you won any awards?
Yes, I have been to NIFCA and have won two bronze awards for the choreographies I’ve entered with Pearls Dance Group.
If you were offered a ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go, and why?
I would go to Australia to experience its culture, and visit the Sydney Opera House. I think the building’s architecture is shaped like a shell by the water –– much like an oyster in the ocean, and I’ve heard that it houses the phenomenal Joan Sutherland Theatre for operas, ballet and contemporary dance performances.
What three books would you encourage everyone to read?.
John Maxwell’s 15 Invaluable Laws Of Growth.
Dr Myles Munroe’s God’s Big Idea.
Greg McKeown’s Essentialism.
If you had the opportunity to live your life over again, starting from the time you entered secondary school, what is one thing you would do differently, and why?
People matter, not in the sense of being preoccupied with people’s opinions but rather being preoccupied with seeing them as individuals. Therefore I would take the time to value people more by being kinder and more giving.
I understand you are a dance tutor. Was the transition from student to tutor difficult, and do you teach all techniques and all age groups?
I use to teach my dolls, write on a chalkboard my dad made, and correct the dolls’ homework. But the transition from dolls to real-life people is sometimes difficult because of two things:
1. To put into action what you’ve learnt, and to be confident that you can translate the information in a way that the students get it, is tough.
2. Every learner comes to the classroom with different backgrounds; so learning to change approaches is fun, but challenging.
I teach all age groups in classical ballet, modern dance and Afro-Caribbean dance techniques.
You started your own business when you were only 20 years old. Share with us the story of Pearls Dance Academy.
I was inspired by a dance pedagogy assignment while in the BCC dance programme. There I saw the possibilities of having a career touching lives through dance. In addition to that, parents of kids I knew where also asking if I could teach their child to dance, and I thought: why not? Pearls (no apostrophe) Dance Academy started with 13 students in 2010, but even then I wasn’t fully aware of what I was doing and, boy, have I learnt timeless lessons over the last five years!
Of greatest significance was that the school was less about my name and more about the idea of a pearl. A pearl is unique and rare. It’s birthed from the most unlikely environments and becomes a precious gem after much refinement. Pearls Dance Academy is therefore a place where youth can discover, unleash and refine their inner pearl through the dance medium.
Now over 60 students later PDA continues to grow and function whilst I study for a degree in arts administration at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. It has been a learning experience every step of the journey.
What was it like being one of the winners of a National Development Scholarship, especially in the area of the arts?
It was encouraging simply because the arts are always looked down upon as a career with no viability. So by being granted this scholarship it showed that the future was bright for the arts in Barbados.
An investment in my life was an investment in Barbados’s future, and to be considered someone worthy of making a difference was humbling. I am forever thankful for this scholarship.
You are currently studying at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. Has it been beneficial living and studying in the United States, and how is it shaping your perspective of life and the arts and adding to your personal and career development?
Living away from home has taught me to grow for myself, and not for my parents or friends who had expectations of me. It taught me to think for myself and give of myself to the process of life. Belhaven University is a great training environment for building lasting relationships.
Belhaven is also one of only 33 institutions in the United States accredited in all four areas of the arts –– visual art, music, theatre and dance. This makes it a reputable place for education in the arts, of which I’m grateful to be a student. Living overseas was also pivotal in creating new avenues to manage and develop my interest in lymphoedema awareness.
We know you are a dancer. Have you thought about getting involved in drama or acting?
I have thought about them, but I believe dance is my specific gift to be shared.
Tell us about the Limbs 4 Lymphoedema Project.
I have lymphoedema, which is chronic progressive swelling in a limb due to trauma or obstruction to the lymphatic system. I developed it four years ago in my left leg, and have struggled to come to grips with the reality that my life had been interrupted by something that I didn’t ask for, especially as an aspiring dancer.
Lymphoedema has no cure, and affects over ten million individuals worldwide. It is never spoken of, and many people who have it are being misdiagnosed or ignored in the medical field because it is not considered a “deadly disease”. But the lymphatic system fights infections, among other things, and if left untreated, lymphoedema can cause major complications.
I found the Face Of Lymphoedema Challenge, commissioned by Lymphatic Education & Research Network (LE&RN), and I got thinking about how I could make a contribution. I decided to create a documentary-type dance video to give voice through movement.
Many of my friends who are not lymphoedema patients have joined me in giving their limbs to help bring awareness through dance. I am dancing in the video that will be given to LE&RN, which will be launched this month. I hope that people will look out for it.
In 2011, you received the Barbados Irvine Burgee Award Of Excellence. What was this award for?
This was for excellent contributions in the arts as a graduate of the Barbados Community College Associate degree in dance programme.
You are an ABT-certified teacher. What exactly is this certification?
American Ballet Theatre (ABT®) is an elite, world-renowned dance institution located in New York. It has developed a National Training Curriculum for ballet training and dancer health. As a certified teacher I am qualified to teach primary through Level 3 grades in dance as outlined by the guidelines for ballet training.
I am also certified to enter students for examinations conducted by the American Ballet Theatre national training curriculum faculty. This will be a new opportunity for young dancers in Barbados.
Between 2000 and 2010, you have received all (but one) distinctions in your examinations from the Royal Academy Of Dance. How many examinations have you done, in what techniques (areas), and what is next for you in the area of dance?
I have been awarded distinctions in six grades of classical ballet with the Royal Academy Of Dance. Next I hope to transition into a new career path of arts administration, which will allow me to manage, consult and foster the development of the arts in the Caribbean.
Dance has pushed me to see who I am and what I am truly capable of. So I will not stop dancing; I’m just changing up the steps.
How do you remain focused and committed to your goals, given all the distractions around?
I keep older people around who are able to mentor me. I read books like the ones I mentioned, and I always remember that I want to die empty. Detours taken because of distractions do teach you things, but they waste time. Every minute counts.
Being a PK (pastor’s kid) can be very difficult at times. How did you overcome some of those difficulties and huge societal expectations?
I came to realize that my parents were who they were, and at some point I had to walk with my own two feet. Even with judgement and societal expectations, it took a lot to focus on what was important, which was my relationship with my parents.
Who has contributed to your success?
I attribute my success to God, my family, supporters of my dream and the authors of the books I mentioned.
Can performing and theatre arts contribute to national development, and how?
Yes! The arts reflect the state and culture of a society. When the arts flourish, the culture flourishes as a result, because at the heart of the arts is the need to be heard, a need to express and speak out. If this is inhibited by the lack of attention or poor funding, artists will always relocate overseas because Barbados is not addressing their needs.
In addition to that, we spend money to travel, we attend Broadway shows in New York or the West End in Britain, and we marvel at the performances. Why can’t the Caribbean be such a hub? A sunny, warm alternative for tourists?
I believe that the Caribbean holds prime potential for maximizing tourism products, and I want to help with its development.
What advice would you give to parents as it relates to the performing arts?
I would tell parents to champion the potential in their children, believe in their craft and be a connector for the resources they will need to get going. Do not tell them to find a back-up plan; they will figure it out on their own.
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