Movers & Shakers- November/ December 2003

Carlos Acosta brings Cuban rhythm to ballet, Queen Ivena sings her way into calypso history, Herralal Rampartap proves his fans right, Pat Cumper makes a dramatic breakthrough, George Bovell swims like a shark, and D'Mello tells her Best Love Story

Carlos Acosta. Photograph Angela TaylorD’ Mello. Photograph courtesy Warner Brothers/ Reprise RecordsGeorge Bovell. Photograph by O’ Lokai/ MEP LtdHeeralal Rampartao (at left). Photograph by Trinidad Publishing CompanyPat Cumper. Photograph by Adrian WilsonQueen Ivena. Photograph courtesy The Daily Observer

Bravissimo, chico

Born and bred in the barrios of Havana, the youngest of 11 siblings,
Carlos Acosta was in and out of trouble from an early age. His father,
determined to save him from a life of crime, enrolled him at the National
Ballet School of Cuba. “My father didn’t know what classical ballet was,
but he knew it was a way out of the neighbourhood.” Twenty years later,
Acosta has reason to be grateful. The current star of Cuban classical dance,
he’s performed at the Bolshoi and with Britain’s Royal Ballet, won the
prestigious Prix de Lausanne, and earlier this year enthralled audiences
with his Cuban tale Tocororo at Sadler’s Wells in London.

D’termined

Hailing from south Trinidad’s Phoenix Park, Winsome “D’Mello” Singh,
22, is the latest sugar-coated R&B singer-songwriter to emerge from
the Warner Brothers stable. The eldest of seven children, she left Trinidad
in her mid-teens and headed to New York in search of bright lights and a
recording deal. Her soulful voice and distinctive style — a mixture of opera,
gospel, and extempo — won comparison with divas like Mary J. Blige and Chanté
Moore. After five years of hard graft in Manhattan recording studios, she
finally got her deal. With her sultry debut album Best Love Story,
D’Mello is making the dream come true.

Rio hero

Long before Heeralal Rampartap started winning prizes, he was adored
in his hometown of Rio Claro in south Trinidad, where neighbours called
him “Melody” and “Starboy”. Last August he rewarded his fans by bringing
home the National Chutney Monarch crown, to complement the Chutney Soca Monarch
title he shared with Rikki Jai earlier in the year. “After the show they started
to announce winners,” said Rampartap. “When they reached second place and
my name didn’t call, my supporters started to scream and bawl. That was the
signal. I felt like I was floating in air. I knew I was the winner.”

Enter stage right

Pat Cumper was already one of Jamaica’s leading contemporary playwrights
— best known for her 1978 play The Rapist — when she decided to
move to the UK. But despite her reputation back home, and the awards under
her belt, she found it hard to get her plays produced (“stories . . . that
are not through mainstream characters and situations”). In 2002 she had
her breakthrough, when The Key Game was produced in London by the
Talawa Theatre Company. Now she’s preparing a new script for the prestigious
Royal Court Theatre, and the UK Guardian recently declared her one
of the top black and Asian women working in British theatre.

Swimmer boy

“I’m just looking to do my best,” said swimmer George Bovell III modestly,
a few days before heading to the Dominican Republic for the Pan American
Games. His best turned out to be better than anyone else’s: the 20-year-old,
six-foot-five giant decisively put Trinidad and Tobago on the aquatic sports
map by winning gold medals in the 200-metre free and 200-metre individual
medley races, and silver in the 100-metre free and 100-metre backstroke,
breaking records as he shot through the water. Swim fans all over the Caribbean
can hardly wait till the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Her majesty

In the 2003 Antiguan calypso season, Queen Ivena sliced through all comers
with her sharp words, breaking records as she went. First she won the Calypso
Queen competition, her third victory. “I feel great. I’m really feeling
happy wining the competition three times,” said the nurse’s aide from Old
Street. But she didn’t stop there. On Carnival Sunday night, at the Calypso
Monarch competition, she triumphed again — becoming the first woman in that
competition’s 46-year history to wear the crown.