On October 17th, head of the dance department at Ardingly Collage Mrs. Willis-Wood, invited elite dance artists and choreographers Kloe Dean and Carmel Soldier to hold and interactive hip hop workshop at the school in celebration of Black History Month.

                At the workshop, students in attendance worked with the artists to learn a unique stylized hip hop dance combo that embodied the spirt of unity and connection of the event. Many positive reviews were given by the students and most left the workshop saying they felt positive and energized by the uplifting atmosphere.

                This event recognized the importance of black inventions in the community and the influence that they have in today’s overall culture. When asked about what Black History Month meant to them, Caramel stated “I’m not very happy with the whole ‘once a month’ thing because obviously, we are black every day! However, I do feel that it is a great opportunity for people to come together and learn about our own cultures, and also about other cultures.”

                Kloe Dean added, “I agree. I don’t think that it should just be October, but I do think that by doing this it helps us build up more awareness and opportunities to grow and understand, especially within dance, all the different styles that come from Black culture and the African Diaspora.”

                In the seven days Ardingly Collage took to celebrate Black History Month, throughout the week’s schedule black athletes, artists, poets, composers and reverends came in to speak with the students and educate them on the significance of Black History Month and on the influences in their daily lives that many have come from forgotten Black sources.

                “I think its great that dance has definitely been included and has made a feature, because it is normally left out in many cultural celebrations… I think it would be nice to get a wider range of the Diaspora such as tribal dances, because what we know from being hip hop dancers is that actually, nothing is original and that the way that we move comes from the basic African tribal movements and extends through the Diaspora’s styles.” Caramel stated, “Actually understanding what Black culture and history has put into our everyday life can spread a lot of awareness. Dance is a universal language. We don’t speak in dance, we let the vibe and the music, not even talk but connect us. And it doesn’t matter what skin colour you are. If I can connect with you and we go on a higher frequency through movement, what is there left to talk about?”

                Anthropologists and historians have found traces of dance in ancient and even prehistoric civilizations since the beginning of time. For thousands of years dance has been used as a way of uniting people from all over the world through expression and freedom. It has been an outlet to many including Kloe. “For me its my form of expression. When I was a young person, I didn’t speak a lot and I was not as confident as I am now, and it was my only form of outlet. Even to this day I am driven by feeling as opposed to technicalities. Its my comfort blanket and it has pushed me to then express how I feel by using my connection to music and movement.”

                The complicated question, ‘Why do you dance?’ is one that not all dancers can answer as it is subjective and very personal. To many, it is more often about the joy of giving and sharing this gift with others rather than taking anything from it. Caramel summed it up perfectly by saying: “The reason why I still dance to this day is because I feel like it’s my purpose to be able to give somebody else that feeling of healing. Its like, who can I take my dance, my gift and my frequency to and watch them smile and just be free in that space? So that is why I dance.”

                Many people restrict themselves when it comes to dance with the excuses of not knowing how to or just being too nervous. They cannot find the courage to just ‘let loose’ and to that Kloe sates, “It’s not that deep, as in its good to just let emotion run through you and allow your movement to be yours and to be your truth. Many see dance and find it intimidating, but its very simple. It can range from just wiggling your finger to opening a door. Movement is so much bigger than what the world makes it out to be. So the reason I say its not ‘that deep’ is because I think that everyone should immerse themselves into movement and channel their emotions in this special way at least once in a while.”

                Caramel then adds on an iconic quote, “Dance is not the be all and end all, but it should be done!”

                Every dancer is unique in their style, mannerisms and strengths. What connects them is their passion and love for what they do while keeping their individuality. Those who then enter the professional world can choose to take on a stage name or keep their name assigned at birth.          

                “Caramel is my actual stage name and I’ve had it since the age of 13, there was a Toffee and a Fudge as well and together we made a sweet combination! …Then I entered the professional world, and the ‘Soldier’ bit came along when Kimberly J asked me if I was still dancing and I said, ‘I am! I’ve got a message to send!’ and that’s when I added the ‘Soldier’ part to my stage name. Not General, or any of the other things people said that I should be, because soldiers are the most humble and hardworking. They are the ones who always go into the trenches, and they are the smartest ones because they are wise enough to be able to come out and help the rest.”

                Caramel Soldier lives by the moto, “You have to earn your stripes” which she claims there are three main ones. Stipe 1: Know thy self. Stripe 2: Interdependence and relationships always. Stripe 3: Progression in everything you do. And by earning her stripes every day she connects with others not only through dance but through life in general.

                Loyal to the truth and humble to the core, Kloe takes a different approach. “I use my government name and I do spell it differently, however no one else really has my name and when I use it, I feel like I’m me. I am all about truth and being yourself, whether this means taking up a stage name or using your birth name.”

                Having these two talented artists come to the Collage has made a strong impact on the student body and has further connected them through dance with strong ties to Black culture. Mrs. Willis-Wood stated at the end of the event, “I started my street dance journey very late in life and became fascinated with it… I did my research and passed all my qualifications, and then my whole hip hop journey just blew up! That is when I changed my dance school around, I teach around 400 kids outside of Ardingly, and we now try to teach the host authentic hip hop wherever we go. However, I do not know it all so sometimes I need to call upon people who do know what they are talking about, so this is why these two lovely ladies are here today. They know what they are talking about and it’s their story to tell.”

                Dance is a universal language and has ties all over the globe which can connect even the most different people. It will continue to be a growing and uniting force of the world through the passion and the efforts of people like Mrs. Willis-Wood, Kloe Dean and Carmel Soldier.