There was a dance performed for the enthronement of the Bible on Word of God Sunday, January 2019 and this year at the anniversary Masses for the Church of the Nativity, Diego Martin; St Anthony’s Petit Valley, and Pentecost Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The person behind these presentations was Darlene Beddoe.
Before her involvement in what is known as liturgical dancing, the professional dancer/choreographer had stopped dancing professionally for several years. She believes it is the Holy Spirit that inspired her to dance again.
In an interview, Darlene Beddoe calls dance one of her first discernible gifts from God.
At four years, this natural talent emerged when she accompanied her five-year-old cousin to the Thora Dumbell school of dance. “My mother would take me, and we would just go and watch the classes and you know as children would do, I went to the back of the class and was dancing and following. And I was, according to them, getting it better than the children in the class.” She was accepted to join though the typical starting age was five years.
In her teens, Beddoe and two other students of St Joseph’s Convent (SJC), Port of Spain, had a Hip-Hop dance group called 100%RAW with Natalie Joseph and Tisha Neilson. Around 1989 when she was in her teens, a Confirmation catechist invited her to perform at an event at St Patrick’s Church, Newtown.
From her teens, Beddoe knew she wanted to be a professional dancer and choreographer. She danced at every Wayne Berkeley show at Queen’s Hall and 100%RAW and at the 1991 Express Newspapers Youth Festival spearheaded by Simon Baptiste, founder of Decibel.
100%RAW headlined the closing concert featuring Dance/Pop/Hip-Hop group C&C Music Factory and R&B group Color Me Badd. Beddoe said she conceptualised Bunji Garlin’s winning performances at the International Soca Monarch Competition.
“That whole time span was just dancing, there was no real differentiation of dancing. I loved to dance…it was constant at the time. It was at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, that was concert capital….” Despite the exposure from different shows, she disclosed she is inherently “shy”.
Beddoe learned different styles of dance from classes with Linda Pollard, Dr Carol La Chapelle, Noble Dancers, and the Caribbean School of Dance. She is grateful to Rhonda-Lou Julien-Samuel from whom she learned performance technique. “She is a wonderful human being, very humble”.
She also named Debbie Mount and Allan Balfour as other positives. “Everyone brought a different piece of the puzzle, not just dancing, but just how to be a better human being.”
Beddoe has done choreography for soca artistes Destra Garcia, Rupee and worked with Bunji Garlin. She strived to maintain a professional approach to performances.
She remembers attending a show in which dancers in skimpy shorts performing with a Soca singer turned and jiggled their buttocks to the audience. She said if this was called dancing then she was not a dancer. “I am not doing that!” Beddoe said.
She clarified that she has no problem with ‘wining’ as this was part of local dance however, she added, “it is how it is presented….”
Apart from dancing, Beddoe has done singing, acting, and worked in event management and marketing. When her father fell ill in 2015, she stopped working to take care of him.
In 2018 however, she was hit by double loss when he and her mother died. She went through a “rough period” and through guidance from long-time friend, Jewel Holder, began receiving counselling with Pastor Glendon Rudder and Alicia Kipps-Rudder of City with Foundations church (First City Assemblies) in Belmont.
Beddoe said, “she and that group are instrumental in helping to build me back up and getting a relationship with God, that nurturing and understanding.”
Dancing with the Holy Spirit
Her return to performance happened at the church’s Christmas concert. She had conducted Xanté dance-fitness classes on Sunday afternoons, so she was asked “are you dancing?”. Despite the encouragement, Beddoe was unsure.
“The Sunday before the concert, which would have been the following Saturday, I am sitting down, and I am watching them after their service and all l heard was ‘dance’ and I knew it was the Holy Spirit.”
Beddoe asked Marion, a church member, who offered to sew a dance outfit previously. She had no idea what the design would be. “I got the dress the
Saturday. I did not know what she was doing; this was just the Holy Spirit ….I just went trusting God. I prayed and opened myself to the Holy Spirit.”
Beddoe had not danced before an audience for years and said she tearfully pleaded with God for help with the presentation. “I said ‘Lord, please use me as Your vessel to minister as You see fit. Let everyone who sees this dance, may they be touched as You need them to be touched; I am but Your vessel’.”
She became emotional recounting the gentle and loving touch of the Holy Spirit while dancing.
This was the beginning. Beddoe said God started her on a journey with ‘Aunty Brens’, a senior catechist at St Francis of Assisi, Belmont, whom she called “phenomenal”.
She danced again for a Mother’s Day event hosted by City with Foundations. “Before I did not want to dance, this time I wanted to dance. But I dared not, until I was sure it was what the Holy Spirit wanted of me. After the first few seconds of the dance, it was as if the Holy Spirit took a tiny step to the right.”
She was presented with another outfit by the woman who made the first; she told Beddoe the Holy Spirit guided her to do this.
At the Mother’s Day show, while listening to the preacher, she heard the echo of something her spiritual director said: it was time to step out in faith and trust that God will guide her steps and make a way for her.
She told the audience that she was unprepared but hoped they enjoyed her dance. Beddoe said, “…the Holy Spirit took a tiny step for me to know He is with me and will always be with me but is giving me the room to choose…and as I danced the Holy Spirit made it better….”
The experience was so powerful she cried while dancing. She felt humbled, grateful, anointed, refreshed. “I had to pledge myself all over again. You have to strip everything to just exist….how else Holy Spirit is going to come?”
Beddoe said she opts for free-style dancing as “it would be easier to my heart and being to the Holy Spirit. I’m not worrying about or being preoccupied with remembering choreography.”
Beddoe feels called to give back. She sees liturgical dance as a “conversation with God.” When she teaches children to dance, she tells them to express themselves as in the different types of conversation they will have with God.
After performances there is excitement from young people to learn dance. Rather than have dance classes on her own, Beddoe would like to see liturgical
dance as a recognised ministry and assist parishes to get it “up and running”. She said, “I would love to work with the Archbishop to set up an Archdiocesan Liturgical Dance Ministry. If it be God’s will.”
Liturgical dancing and Church
Seminary Vice-rector and Principal, Fr Jason Boatswain said liturgical dancing can be used for the Offertory or after Communion, but it depends “on what you are using it for”. He explained liturgical dancing should help people to enter into the liturgy; it was not entertainment.
It should lead “to a deeper encounter in the liturgy so that one is caught up in prayer, caught up in worship and praise,” he said.
Barbara Lake of the Liturgical Commission said Liturgical Dance was a workshop in Liturgy School (LS) however, the number of participants registering dwindled over time. The last workshop was in 2019. “The issue is that to take part in LS one had to be 18 and over. We are working on bringing it back but not under LS. We have plans which we hope will come to fruition in 2023 which include Liturgical Dance,” she told the Catholic News.