DAY TEN: September 15

 Time is flying fast. Nooooo!  

Today I started conceptionalizing what a sound score could look like for "Yam, Potatoe an' Fish!"  I will create a rough draft of something to share with the invited audience next weekend and pick it back up in the States.  You know that point in your creative process where you realize that you found something?  When things are starting to make sense?  Coalesce?  When you've found a nugget?  Yeah, I am not there.  This creative process is going much slower than others, and I am okay with that.

Tomorrow is a big day.  In the morning I have rehearsal with Jamie and local dancer, Anna Noel, for the duet we are sharing next weekend.  Anna is a lovely dancer, and it is a real pleasure to have the opportunity to do this "cultural exchange" with her.  In the afternoon I am taking a Afro-Caribbean class in San Juan.  I end the day teaching a Afro-Modern workshop for all ages and levels.  I am surprisingly not nervous, which, if you know me well, should be a real shock.   I am very excited to meet the participants, share my gifts with them and vice versa.  I am sure that I will learn a lot.

Every day I grow more grateful to Jamie and Kevon for providing this space for local and  international artists to create and share their work.  They are the kind of people I'd like to be in conversation with moving forward.  I really hope this is all just the beginning of way more than I could ever think possible.  I kind of don't want to come back home.



DAY EIGHT: September 13

A surprise visit to NAPA (National Academy for the Performing Arts) in Port of Spain this evening, alongside the Ministry of Culture's Movement and Dance Coordinator, Jamie Philbert!  And she does it all which such style and grace!

Trinidad has a state-funded professional arts program (dance, music and theater) in a beautifully-designed state-of-the-art building in Port Of Spain.  Who knew?!  Did YOU know?  I didn't.  A gorgeous auditorium, I sat backstage during the rehearsal of a combined program of  the National Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Steel Symphony Orchestra and chatted with a steel pan drummer (who is on salary).  Yes, you heard me.  Steel pan, strings and choir!  

Jamie bought me tickets for Sunday.  How excited am I?


More to come...


Look Ma!

Look Ma!

"I feel sorry for you guys."

DAY SEVEN: September 12

Mommy interview Part 2 was a slam dunk!

My mother's face lights up when she reaches again for memories of her Tobago and life in Trinidad--the sojourn to the next island she took at 9 years old.  Nine years of being the only child at home, with the town as your playground, cared for by loving grandparents and extended family members.  It became clear to me over the course of the interview that the nostalgia my Mom feels for her "Sweet T & T" is not completely about the place of Tobago and Trinidad but the time in her life.  CHILDHOOD.

I see a little darkie girl scurrying around her village of Plymouth with the other schoolchildren, swimming in the beach, eating fresh fruit and locally grown food.   Big ovens are filled with bake bread...the stillness of the afternoons.  And then in Trinidad, little Lorna shelling peas with her grandmother, Mildred (whom I never met).  Yuh couldn't sell just anything to Mildred.  She knew what she wanted and she always got it!  She was a force to be reckoned with!  In all, the simplicity of country life is the bond that my mother and my father share.  

"I feel sorry for you guys."  

With a pained look on her face, "Trapped in the city."

"[Childhood] is something that never leaves you."

"You should be able to experience the pure joy of living.  You have that resource within you.  You know the joy of living...If I've done nothing else, hopefully I've imparted that."      

-my Mother

I too, feel lucky to have experienced the freedom of childhood, Mom.  And like you, it is something that, at times, I too mourn.



A solitary day. A welcome change.


I interviewed my Mom.  During the 1.5 hour interview she talked about the family tree and her emigration to the States and other sojourns.  It was a powerful exchange.  I discovered a lot about my Mom, myself and this piece that I am making.  I learned that, culturally-speaking, I am actually second-generation American, seeing that my Mom left Trinidad at the tender age of 11 years old and grew up in Brooklyn, NY.  She said some heart-breaking things about cultural loss.  I also leaned that I am in NO way a Trinidadian. I am a Tobagonian.  And there is a difference.

I went to the studio afterwards for my first real rehearsal for "Yam, Potaoe an Fish!"  

More to come...

About Sunday night...


I took a Maxi Taxi to Saint Augustine by myself Sunday night.  

I was greeted at my destination by philosopher and chantwelle, Burton Sankarelli.  Burton is one of Trinidad's great talents and thinkers.  I am proud to call him a friend, by way of my husband.  I attended an open mic at a bar called Trevor's Edge; and Burton introduced me to all the performers (he was on the bill as well) and their guests.  An intimate venue with spoken word and acoustic music has always been my thing.  "Songshine."  The name has a special ring to it.  This stick in the mud (me) stayed and "limed" with the local performers, exchanging great conversation (and Carib beer).

To artistic exchange, networking and new friends!

"God is a Trini."

Day Four: Saturday 9/9

My transition to Trinidad's flow was so momentous that it really took a few days to fully be present in my body here and to let go of the baggage from my life in the States.  It is what it is.

Today was my first day in the studio with Jamie.  I am in the presence of a powerful woman.   The dance that I am learning is an autobiographical performance piece for Jamie that dovetails with my first-generation immigrant experience.  How I wish I had a year here to be fully immersed in the culture and to thoroughly research "Yam, Potatoe an Fish!"  As it were, my task is to utilize the time well, and, to that end, I will discover what I will accomplish here.  Slowly but surely the flow of this place is starting to make sense to me.   Trinidad is many things.  It feels more like a South American city than an idyllic Caribbean island, someone recently said to me.  It is modern; it is historic.  It is poor; it is rich.  It is diverse, and yet, there is a communal understanding shared between its people.  It is wild and messy, orderly and divine.  The people here are accepting, yet particular.  

New developments :

Sunday Sept 17 Alanna's Afro-Modern Workshop in Arima for ages 12 and up at East Yard.

Saturday Sept 23 Alanna's Afro-Modern children's dance class and solo performance at Santa Rosa park

NEW duet with Alanna Morris-Van Tassel and Anna Noel, performance 9/23




Day Three: Friday 9/8

Arima is the home of the first people to inhabit Trinidad and means "water."  I am staying in an apartment adjacent to Santa Rosa Church Park and Santa Rosa R.C. Church.  When in 1757, Spanish Capuchin priests colonized Arima, they built a church and established a mission in the town.  The church was dedicated to Rosa, who was a Amerindain girl from Lima, Peru, who had been canonized as Santa Rosa de Lima.  The Spanish missionary influence is remains apart of Arima history and can be traced through the survival of the Amerindian community residing just minutes from my front door step.  Arima was my last stop on Robert Youngs's "Dotish Tour" last ceremony.  I remember the canon blast at 6 am and the smoke ceremony.   Too bad I accidentally deleted all that footage.  

This is about the past that continues on to the present day.  Resiliency.  

I am also struck by the name Sorzano.  I know a Sorzano from Trinidad, and it turns out the name holds much significance.  Michael Sorzano was the governor of Arima in the 1780's.  In 1813 Ralph Woodford (who has also landmarks named after him) became governor of Arima and did a lot to preserve the Spanish laws and customs and to keep Arima as a mission and exclusively Amerindian territory.  That lasted until his death in 1828.  

The British conquered Trinidad in 1797.

Colonization. Acts of resilience.  It is all right here.


Day Two: Thursday 9/7

Today I came head to head with myself, and I did not run away.

I have been to war before but each deployment feels like a whole new journey.

Today I realized that the battle I thought I was fighting wasn't it at all actually.  

Until this day I penned my fight as " Alanna-the-thrill-seeking-planner/organizer-with-energy-to-burn" VS. Alanna-the-deliberate-pensive-observer-of-time-and-sensation.

Consider those two girls companions on the same road, different approaches.  My struggle has been deeper than that.  

By always having to hold on/be strong/persist/devise/suck it up, etc... I have been left feeling quite empty, frustrated and anxious.  I have experienced a stifling of my personality and my joy.  

During this Catharis residency with Art On Purpose, I endeavor to put the harshly critical Alanna on the shelf and to look within for a greater sense of self-love.

"The Assimilation of My Tongue"

Day One: Wednesday 9/6

Today was all about setting up.

I slept in.  Through the rain and the excited sounds of the school children at Arima Girls R.C. Primary School playing during recess.  My very friendly landlord, Asha, took me to the grocery store in the afternoon.  I also ate my favorite soup from the soup shop down the street, cowheel soup.  Walking through Arima this afternoon was an overwhelming, emotional experience.  My childhood memories are imprinted on the landscape of food, drink, song and speech.  My eyes and tongue drink in the concentrate of Trinidadian culture; and it is a powerful assault to my heart and breath patterns.  I am both afraid of this feeling and eager to investigate it--to pull it apart in the studio.  I returned home with a bad headache, evidence of the sensory overload, I guess.

The evening went much more smoothly.  Jamie and I met over drinks at a local bar.  She was impeccably dressed as usual, clad in a well-built hand-made dress made by a Nigerian designer--one of the few pieces she didn't make herself--and heels.  I had Hennessy.  She had a Stag.  They did not ID.   We talked about a lot of things, including my schedule and our collaboration.  Then we ended the night at a bar with karaoke, drinking in the festive vibe of the local crooners.  Note: Karaoke is very popular here and Trinidadians are showmen. 

Tomorrow is an early start in Port of Spain for research and then to the studio until 6 pm.

I will have to use my time wisely.


I made it!

I made it!

I made it through the hardest season of my professional life--the Summer of Transition, as I had been calling it.  Though I still have quite a bit of work ahead of me in this solo journey, with the support of my community--both near and far, of artists, healers, family and friends--I have put the right wheels in motion.  I have learned that I can have inner peace and mental clarity through so much Unknown and so much Change by placing my spiritual and mental health first.

-written in the skies, somewhere between Toronto and Trinidad