Nicole de Weever: “Arts is reaching to a place that it is no longer just entertainment.”

POSTED: 06/13/12 1:26 PM

St. Maarten – “I am climbing on the backs of people before me who did not have an option or opportunities like I do today.”  So says Nicole de Weever, acclaimed St.Maarten dancer, Broadway performer and cultural ambassador. De Weever has been residing in Harlem, New York for the past 16 years but still calls St.Maarten her home, returning as often as she possibly can to fulfill a lifelong passion of working with and inspiring young people to discover greatness within themselves.

“What I have been doing over the past year is going into public schools and speaking to kids.  A lot of times we see people and here then speak and think to ourselves that we cannot relate to them because they have no connection to you. We need to have St. Maarteners going back into the schools once they become successful. Regardless of whatever profession you are you can inspire the future generation.”

Most of the creative work that de Weever is currently engaged in centers around controversial and thought provoking issues such as social justice, colonization, government corruption  and the exploitation of a country’s resources by big corporations.

“Arts is reaching to a place that it is no longer just entertainment. The audience actually learns something in the process and it stimulates your mind. Being a part of an entirely Black cast on a Broadway stage is very significant. The message as well is huge; it speaks to things that we do not hear on a commercial stage.  What I felt the need to do even as a part of my work was to come into my own community and change and speak for the people that have no voice,” the svelte St.Maarten Academy alumnus said.

De Weever was recently invited to participate in the 10th Annual St.Martin Book Fair where she performed, hosted workshops on culture and identity and even found time to visit fifth graders of several elementary schools.

“When I visited the MAC school and saw the faces of the children it was a joy.  I reminded them that I was once a student there and was once sitting in that chair at the back of the room. The teacher that presented me was once my first grade teacher and their principal was once my sixth grade teacher.”

The graduate of the New York University (NYU) said that it was important for her to let the students know that their dreams are not far-fetched.

Today she holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in Dance and has been featured in many US documentaries, music videos and also rubbed shoulders with the best and brightest in the entertainment business.

“Even as a kid I envisioned travelling the world, I saw myself dancing in shows. I followed my dreams.  I came to the US at fifteen, I had to work my way through college.  I was a small fish in a big pond and it was never easy.”

It is this same spirit of fearless ambition along with discipline that de Weever hopes to fuel in the lives of young people here.

“People can have big dreams but we have to be mindful that we are proactive dreamers. It is about putting things in the right order to make them happen. I believe that preparation always meets opportunity.”

There are several issues that de Weever believes ought to be addressed if children on the island are to become healthy, productive and happy citizens. She has premised her position on her years of experience providing voluntary service to many inner-city youths in New York who are often neglected.

“Some people are very talented but just don’t know where to place that talent, how to channel it. We constantly talk about how the youths are going astray and so much negativity but what are we doing to proactively make a difference to help change the situation?” de Weever questioned.

She added that unfair labels are also placed on children because elders do not understand them or do not take the time to get to know them. Artistic programs are also being pulled out of schools or downsized, as well.

“How can we nurture the minds of kids in loving the arts and wanting to be a part of it? In the beginning it was so difficult to get a lot of people to understand my vision and believe in me, but they did and I am forever grateful to them.”

Young people also exert a lot of energy which may be unsettling for teachers. Instead of helping them to channel that energy in the right direction, they may be ignored, allowed to fail at academics or psychologically labeled, de Weever opined. All of the aforementioned issues are crucial to a child’s development but life lessons must be taught in an environment where no child should feel they have the right to everything, or be privileged.

Reminiscing on her childhood days, de Weever shared fond memories with us of working hard at the Motiance Dance School, embracing the diverse culture of the country, long afternoon drives with her mother as she sang hymns, constantly being told that there was no such thing as the ideal body as long as you are healthy and engaging in conversations with the elderly.

“I remember a time when elders and youth engaged in conversations. Are parents taking the time to have these conversations about where we are from and how we got here? Do we carry on the oral traditions, talk about the history of the Salt Pond and what Mama and Dada had to do for us to be here today?”

Those vivid recollections are among some of the things that de Weever misses the most about island life. She has a grueling schedule which includes eight shows per week, repeat performances on weekend, travelling between continents and voluntary work. One off day per week within which she finds time to squeeze in yoga exercises, keep abreast with the SXM pulse and read a good book, has certainly not proven enough for the thirty three year old who is considering slowing down and investing more time in what has become a “serious relationship.”

St. Maarten will always remain at the heart of whatever she does, de Weever passionately says, “I was awarded the title of cultural ambassador for St.Maarten some three years ago and I would really like to take on responsibilities that go with that role. Being an artist is more than just being creative, you also have to be an intellectual.”

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