A tribute to Peter Tosh

Updated: 05 February, 2020 11:19 IST | Prutha Bhosle | Mumbai

For the first time ever, Mumbai witnesses dancers of the Luminario Ballet of Los Angeles who present a piece about the life and philosophy of Jamaica's biggest reggae star.

Grasan Kingsberry, Jasmine Perry and Sadie Black performing the Tosh piece in the US. Pic/Emerson Chen
Grasan Kingsberry, Jasmine Perry and Sadie Black performing the Tosh piece in the US. Pic/Emerson Chen

Born in Boston, Judith FLEX Helle began dance lessons at four. Over the years her training included ballet, modern, jazz, modern jazz, contemporary dance and Afro-Caribbean. In 2008, she founded Luminario Ballet of Los Angeles — a company that incorporates aerial work into several of its repertoire pieces. Over the years, the troupe has frequently toured nationally and internationally. But 2020 is special to Helle. For, she was awarded a grant by the United States Department of State to produce Tosh Thoughts, a cultural exchange programme at Mumbai's Kala Ghoda Festival.

When we meet the company of four — Broadway superstar Grasan Kingsberry, acrobatic superstar Windu Sayles and divine ballerinas Jasmine Perry and Sadie Black — a few hours before their first-ever performance in Mumbai, they reminisce about Helle and thank her for giving them this opportunity to travel to India. Kingsberry, 38, says, "While everyone knows about Bob Marley, Peter Tosh is one of the greatest and oldest stars of Jamaican reggae. With this thought of celebrating the artiste, Helle choreographed this piece just two weeks before we arrived in Mumbai."

Helle's 15-minute work-in-progress titled Tosh Thoughts: Break On Through to the Other Side is choreographed to six songs by legendary composer Peter Tosh. The titles of Tosh's songs are Creation, African, Apartheid, Steppin' Razor, Get Up Stand Up, and Walk and Don't Look Back. Helle, who spoke to us from the US, says, "We are truly thrilled to show this new work-in-progress piece about the life and philosophy of Peter Tosh of the Wailers, one of Jamaican reggae's biggest stars. He is truly a global artist with relevance to our times — a great proponent of equality, justice, and diversity. It is a great honour to bring this piece to the Mumbai audience. We thank the US Consulate in Mumbai for this opportunity."

Interestingly, the Luminario Ballet will bring many physical elements of Tosh's interesting life on stage. The most significant being his favourite mode of transportation, which was the unicycle. "We also introduce Tosh's acrobatic love of martial arts, his love for ballet and ballet music in this piece," adds 24-year-old Perry.

After their two performances in Mumbai, the troupe will head to Goa to perform at the International Dance Fest at the Omaggio Performing Arts' outdoor theatre. Sadie says, "This is our first ever performance in Mumbai and we only hope the audience is swept up in the spirit of our movements."

On Wednesday, February 5, 8 pm; Sunday, February 9 at 7 pm (Goa)
At Cross Maidan, Mumbai; Omaggio Performing Arts Complex, Anjuna, Goa.

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First Published: 05 February, 2020 08:15 IST

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