As Trinidad and Tobago’s singular curated and juried dance festival, the Contemporary Choreographers’ Collective (COCO) Dance Festival, has created a forum for the nurturing, expression and staging of all contemporary and post-modern forms of dance and choreography. The festival came to life in 2009 as an initiative of dance professionals Sonja Dumas, Nancy Herrera, Nicole Wesley and Dave Williams. Dumas approached her fellow dance colleagues with her desire to fill the void created by the then tenuous status of Trinidad and Tobago’s National Dance Association’s (NDA’s) Caribbean Dance Festival (CDF). The four stepped in with their COCO proposal to the NDA. That year, COCO replaced CDF taking over the NDA’s Queen’s Hall booking to present the inaugural COCO Dance Festival. With a two-week production timeline and no financing, the COCO team miraculously secured the financial support of the Trinidad and Tobago Entertainment Company (TTEnt) and extended invitations to choreographers who eagerly came on board. This marked the birth of an annual festival establishing COCO as Trinidad and Tobago’s foremost platform for the presentation of innovative and experimental contemporary choreography.
With a mission to inspire, encourage and serve the community through creative processes and collaborative endeavours, COCO emboldens choreographers to push the envelope with pioneering choreographic approaches that explore contemporary and post-modern forms
of dance and movement. In this vein, the festival is committed to,
Enriching the dance community through multidisciplinary and culturally diverse programmes;
Establishing a contemporary artist network; and
Enlivening the human spirit in Trinidad and Tobago and abroad through performance and choreographic study.
As a collective with a focus on carving a space for a contemporary, post modern and experimental dance aesthetic, COCO has revolutionised Trinidad and Tobago’s dance landscape by steering the development of collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to the production of art, performance and lecture. In so doing, it has established strategic networks partnership with Makeda Thomas’s Dance & Performance Institute and the Joffrey Ballet. This alliance provides an avenue for the sharing of information and cross-promotional initiatives via the institute’s international community of dance and performance artists, which facilitates exchange and programmes on contemporary dance and performance based in Trinidad and Tobago.
COCO continues to present novel experiences for its audiences that inspire different ways of thinking about space, which can be more intimate and site-specific to encourage different forms of engagement.
Since its inception, COCO has showcased the works of its founders alongside those of dance and creative arts practitioners from multiple disciplines and training centres across Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Canada, Spain, Martinique, Barbados and the USA including, Akuzuru, Allan Balfour, Rachel Baptiste-Lee, Gregor Breedy, Sherma Burke Forde, Jacob Cino, Ali Duffy, Genevieve Durham DeCesaro, Neila Ebanks, Heather Henderson-Gordon, Anaïs Hinds, Michelle Isava, Astor Johnson, Binahkaye Joy, Anika Marcelle, La Shaun Prescott, Elvis Radgman, Makeda Thomas, Kriston Trim, Brittany Williams, Bridgette Wilson, Sharon Pierre, Afiya Huggins, Sade Chance, Jillene Forde, Lucette Regis, Helanius Wilkins, Chris Rudd, Courtenay Thorne, Candace Thompson, Sherma Burke and Tara Jane Herbert.
Additionally, through relationships fostered with the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT’s) and the University of the West Indies’s (UWI’s) dance programmes, the festival nurtures and mentors budding choreographers by providing a professional platform for performance and experimentation supported by direction in the development of choreography. The festival’s developmental efforts are reinforced by partnerships with its visiting choreographers who host training workshops for members of the dance community.
Faced with continued financial challenges, the COCO team resolutely looks to the future with determination and dedication to their vision to establish a world-class contemporary festival that is sustainable. The team is also focused on expanding the reach of the COCO in the Community initiative and growing the educational components of the festival.