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Arts & Culture Last Updated: Jan 6, 2019 - 2:42:14 AM

‘Bittersweet’ Experience for Classic Dancers During 2019 New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade
By Classic Dancers Junkanoo Group
Jan 5, 2019 - 7:30:33 PM

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Freeport, Bahamas- The 2018 New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade was shadowed with the tragic loss of The Classic Dancers’ leader, Kenneth ‘Motorboat’ Ferguson.  As such, the parade was named in his honor, and the Classic Dancers Junkanoo Group decided to participate solely to commemorate and pay tribute to him.  The January 1st, 2019 New Year’s Day parade was set to be an exhilarating return for the Classic Dancers, who have now fully regrouped, and were eager to show Grand Bahama that they should be considered among the contenders this year.  Instead, the group’s grand return was met with a puzzling set of circumstances, making it a ‘bittersweet’ experience due to disqualification.

There is no doubt that this year’s parade results, and the pandemonium that ensued thereafter are deeply controversial.  The Classic Dancers Group seeks this opportunity to address the many infractions that took place during the parade.  Our disqualification, which was “unofficially” said to have resulted from not meeting the minimum requirement necessary to compete as an A group (100 persons) has left us mystified.  We call into question, the validity of the count process, in addition to the fact that, in hind sight, some judges may not have been qualified to judge- due to their lack of criteria knowledge. 

First, we call out the fact that judges commenced our group count before our line-up was even completed.  Our Marshals had to notify the starting gate judges, that members were making their way from the designated drum fire pit, upon realizing what was occurring.  At the start gate, two judges counted us above the required minimum, one counted us in the range of 92-101 persons, and the last counted us at 92 persons.  However, our chief marshal was never informed of the final results of the count; not to mention that we learned our mid-lap group count number changed, causing us to question the validity of the process, since the rules state that the count will occur during pre-judging at the start gate, not mid-lap.   In any event, the question remains, how is this possible considering that there was no place for our members to leave the route.

We also note, that it is against protocol for other junkanoo groups to cross the parade route once another group has lined up and have started their performance.  We have video footage of members from the group that went before us, who crossed into our line-up, as we had just started performing.    From the judges’ inconsistent comments and scoring, to non-transparent communications (or none at all) with our co-chair persons, it is disheartening and concerning.   

Second, we would like to address the fact that judges may have not been adequately trained, as a judge unknowingly consulted a Classic Dancer Executive Member, who was also a judge and asked the question, “How do you know what is considered an ‘off-the-shoulder costume?”  Consequently, our judge had to explain the difference between pieces during the parade. How can we trust any of the scores or penalties issued under those circumstances?  We learned that the judges were only given their packets a mere three weeks before the parade, compared to Nassau judges, who receive their packets from as early as October.  Why are there such inconsistencies and fluctuations in how Junkanoo business is conducted between the two islands? 

Despite the inconsistencies in counting, and the apparent ill-prepared judges, our group also experienced prejudice during the parade.  For instance, at the start of the first lap, a judge was overheard making the comment, “Motorboat died, and his group died with him.”  To add further insult to injury, we are aware that there were judges who took the opportunity to take food breaks during our performance.  It would appear as if The Classic Dancers were counted out before we were even given the chance to show off our hard work.  How can one compete in the face of such indifference? 

We have no issue accepting penalties, as we know within ourselves that we were not perfect.  We acknowledge that we did not meet the required 10 off-the-shoulder costumes, having only 9 on the first lap, and 8 on the second (which should only result in a 75 points penalty).  We also acknowledge that our lead costume did not appear in the second lap due to damage (this should only result in a 100 points penalty).  Having received our penalty package three days post the parade, the amount of time having elapsed has caused our confidence in the judging process to diminish. 

Despite the results, we are proud of our efforts.  The Classic Dancers are still here!  Regardless of what the “talk around town” is.  We would also like to thank our sponsors and supporters for their unwavering dedication to the group.  Please note that we are contesting the results that led to our disqualification, in the interest of fairness.  We can only hope that in the 2020 New Year’s Day Parade, the judging process is re-evaluated and strengthened, which will improve the odds of more acceptable results.

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