BY ERIN SILVER
RG Scholarships spoke with Mary Faulkenberry, a committee adviser for the National Dance Foundation of Bermuda (NDFB) to discuss scholarships for talented dancers. While arts are often overlooked, this is a top-notch opportunity for Bermudians pursuing the art of dance.
RG: What is the National Dance Foundation of Bermuda?
Mary Faulkenberry: The NDFB was established as a non-profit in 2005 with the mission to support the positive development of Bermuda’s young people by providing access to world-class opportunities through the medium of dance. With American Ballet Theatre and their associates as their overseas partners, the NDFB offered an annual three-week international summer intensive for dancers from Bermuda, the United States, Canada and Europe, five master class weekends a year at no charge to the participants and a robust scholarship and bursary award programme until 2012. The NDFB discontinued the on-island programmes when enrolment numbers ceased to support it, but continued efforts to offer major scholarships and bursaries to qualified Bermudian dancers. The Foundation closed their office and relinquished their charity status in 2016, becoming a programme fund with the Bermuda Community Foundation. The focus continued to be financial support of talented Bermudian dancers, whose acceptance qualified them to attend world-class training institutions internationally and professional development support of former recipients who had continued on to professional careers.
RG: How many scholarships do you offer a year for dancers? Is there a certain amount set aside for dance scholarships? Where does funding come from?
MF: Funding comes from generous and committed donors in Bermuda’s international corporate, foundation, local business and individual communities. Donors support the positive growth and development of Bermuda’s aspiring dancers, teachers and choreographers and believe that theirs is an investment in our collective future. All NDFB Fund scholarships and bursaries are listed on BermudaScholarships.com. Applicants must apply online through BermudaScholarships.com. All requirements and criteria are listed on the website. The deadline is June 6, 2022. Typically we offer four major scholarships and bursaries of varying amounts annually for the study of dance at accredited universities, conservatories or arts high schools, as well as professional development grants when possible. Scholarship awards, when available, range from $15,000 for the Patricia Calnan Scholarship to $7,500 for the Georgine Hill, L. John Profit and Ana Roje Scholarships. Bursaries range from $5,000 to $1,000 and Professional Development Grants vary depending on need and fund availability.
RG: What do you look for in candidates? What sets someone apart or makes them stand out from others?
MF: Applicants must be accepted into a world-class institution, e.g. accredited university with a dance major, conservatory or performing arts high school with a world-class reputation.
It is the opinion of many of the Foundation’s previous master teachers that Bermuda encompasses a wealth of untapped potential in dancers who are eager and able to be fully developed and to blossom on the international scene. NDFB Fund scholarship recipients are proving that to be true. It is well documented that young people who study dance are focused and disciplined and exhibit a strong sense of commitment. Their participation in dance training translates to an enhanced sense of self-worth, confidence and typically increased academic and professional success. Every past recipient is dancing in a professional company, e.g. Paul Taylor Dance, Mark Morris, Dance Heginbotham, Ballet Flanders, Ballet Cymru, RhythmFlow (formerly BDblaq), West End musical theatre productions, to name a few, are teaching both in Bermuda and overseas or are still in school. Scholarship recipients are currently in the upper school at the Royal Ballet, the Rambert School, Tring Arts, University of the Arts, the Grier School and Sheridan.
RG: What makes this scholarship opportunity special or unique?
MF: The NDFB Fund awards are unique in that we are the only fund in Bermuda that gives exclusively to dance education. Our scholarships commemorate members of the dance community who have made a difference in the promotion, support and education of dance. There are other worthy funds that support the arts, but none exclusively for dance or at the level the NDFB Fund has over the years.
RG: Why is dance important to Bermuda?
MF: Bermuda has a long history of producing great dance talent but never before have dancers had the opportunities that they have now. Scholarships and bursaries have enabled Bermudians to study in the most prestigious schools in the world, but it is the dancers’ determination, commitment, focus and discipline that have seen them achieve success in the professional world of dance. There are more Bermudian dancers than ever gracing the theatre stages and studios internationally.
Dance, music and theatre are very much part of the Bermudian culture, but the arts have also been one of the most underfunded areas of education. The NDFB Fund is deeply grateful to the generous and committed donors who continue to support dance talent, particularly when the world is in such crisis. They understand that their investment is not only supporting, but in some cases saving lives, as one of our recipients has voiced. The dancers are realising their dreams, working professionally around the world and making Bermuda proud.
RG: Has anyone gone on to be famous or give back to Bermuda in a notable way?
MF: The NDFB Fund encourages recipients to give back to the community and participation in interviews and/or appearances is listed as criteria for accepting an award. We are happy to say that many return to teach workshops and speak to groups about their careers and some are assisting with promoting the development of the NDFB Fund. Some dancers have performed with the Bermuda Festival, an international festival featuring many famous performers.
Fame takes time to achieve and our dancers are still relatively young, but as some of our dancers are dancing with world-renowned companies and three are directing their own companies or projects, I imagine their fame is around the corner!