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The Pose That Moved Me

I recently picked up the hobby of painting with acrylics. The pandemic granted me time to explore this new-found passion. Still in the process of finding my own style, I create my own renditions based on inspirational photos I find online. I seem to be locked into painting exact depictions rather than captured emotions. What I want to do next is to translate sounds, rhythm, and harmony on a flat canvas. How do I do that?

This photo taught me how.

Bahamian woman in a dance pose with ocean in the background
“Conviction commands every sway that flows from her”

Scrolling through Instagram, I was awestruck by the photo of this gifted dancer. Her posture was spellbinding. From her well-defined stance, I could feel the pride she carried. She helped me answer the question that’s been puzzling me: How do I reflect music in my paintings?

Movement. Depict movement. That is the answer!

There was something about her pose and attitude that resonated with me. Reviewing her Instagram profile, I realized she’s a native of The Bahamas. Coincidence? I contacted her!

I discovered that Gabrielle Shipley, born and raised in Nassau, has been dancing since she was a wee four-year old. Prancing around on tippy toes, she unwittingly prodded her mom to put her in ballet classes. She is classically trained, having attended various dance schools on the island.

Smiling Bahamian woman, with cup of tea in hand
Gabrielle Shipley, a gifted dancer and visual artist, is shown here beaming with joy.

Her grandmother also once told her, “Gal ya got the feet of a determined woman. Yinna does make up ya mind and move dat way.” [“Girl, you have the feet of a determined woman. All you need to do is make up your mind and move that way.”] And determined she was— and still is— in improving her craft. This gifted artist went on to pursue modern dance in Cleveland, Ohio in 2016.

While enrolled in an Afro-Modern dance company there, she met Dr. Munirah Bomani. Sharing a Caribbean connection and having complementing styles, they instantly meshed. Their partnership led to the creation of Soursop Stories, a dance collaboration that honors their roots.

Two dancing African-American women in white tops and blue skirts.
Gabrielle with Dr. Munirah Bomani in Soursop Stories, a collaboration honoring their Caribbean roots.

"Our bodies tell the stories of our people. We are daughters of the Caribbean hailing from the sunny Bahamian isles and Guyanese plains. Yet, we also comprise the American stew.” ~Soursop Stories

I learned that Gabrielle has been actively choreographing and performing for independent shows and dance projects in Cleveland. Her special focus is on Afro-Caribbean dance, a spectacle form of dance while moving to the rhythm of indigenous drumbeats. She has just barely started with her new endeavors. Though she has returned to Nassau, she is pouring her heart into her latest dance project.

Bahamian woman in a dance pose, arms raised and hands flexed
“With every quadrille step... every pointed toe and every flexed foot... we tell our stories.” ~Soursop Stories

Before wrapping up the interview, I explained how impressed I was by her form of expression and how she greatly inspired one of my acrylic paintings. “My mom is a self-taught painter too!” she revealed. Another coincidence?

There’s definitely a bond-in-the-making here. We decided that once safe to get together, we’ll meet up along with her mother. I can’t wait to show them my painting!

Painting of a woman dancing
Here's the final art piece. Now, can you feel the music?

In the end, I was able to express more than just vibrant colors to my art rendition. The photos above shows the final product. Can you feel the beat, the rhythm, and the swaying music? Thanks for the inspiration, Gabrielle!

To learn more about Gabrielle Shipley and Soursop Stories, follow Gabrielle aka @gabii.anne and @soursopstories on Instagram.

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