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Hotseat - Natorii Illidge

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Who is Natorii Illidge?

I am a determined, persistent, devoted, passionate, quiet and careful individual.

Where were you educated, and what did you study?

I attended MAC Early Stimulation, MAC Primary, St. Maarten Academy and then completed my Bachelor of Arts in Primary Education at University of St. Martin.

When and how did you discover your love for dance?

Honestly, I cannot remember the moment I discovered my love for dance, but for my first stage performance at age four for The Lion King, I was a blue bird and it was the first time wearing make-up and I loved it. I've been dancing since I was two years old, playing Mas in the carnival parade.

What is it about dance that you love?

Dance makes me feel liberated. The beauty of dance is that there are many styles and cultures, but the variety of dancers has one common interest, which is creating movement from music or an idea that influences you.

What differentiates you from other dancers?

My charisma and joy on stage.

Favourite dance and dance move and favourite role model dancer?

My favourite dances are jazz, dancehall and hip hop. I don't have a favourite dance move, but I surely love free styling. My favourite role model dancer is Lauren Cox, who is a professional dancer in New York City.

What came first - studying to become an educator or moulding yourself in dance?

Studying to become an educator came first. Originally, I wanted to study dance and be a professional dancer, but the government didn't offer study financing for that field of study, as it was not on the priority list. It was suggested that I study teaching here on the island, because St. Maarten needed local teachers. After two years of teaching, I decided to pursue my love for dance on another level, which I am currently still working on.

What is your advice on how youngsters can make the best decision on what career path to take?

Make sure you find something you love and make a career out of it. You can do this by taking it one step at a time, experiencing different activities and jobs, building more awareness around you and abroad, and using your talent wisely. You never know how great the outcome can be, so do not limit yourself.

Some months ago, you returned home from a year-long educational dance journey in the US. What was it like?

My dance life in New York City was the most remarkable journey I've experienced in life. I was thrilled and thankful to have taken a variety of classes with elite dance teachers in the city. I also got to be surrounded by amazing passionate dancers from all over the world, whom I built close relationships with, and have been inspired and enlightened by them as well. I got opportunities to assist teachers in workshops, perform in numerous occasions and also choreograph pieces with international dancers. New York was quite a journey to always remember; the city of life.

Tell us about your plans to continue your education in dance?

I plan to complete a professional semester at Broadway Dance Center, starting in August. I wish to continue learning at Alvin Ailey and Steps on Broadway, and also continue to audition.

How do you juggle your many hats and what's a typical day like for you?

Sometimes I feel like I am living a superwoman life, because I just want to not live a day without a challenge. Juggling being a full-time primary school teacher, dance teacher and dancer is still overwhelming after returning from New York City. I wake up at 5:00 every morning, complete a 30-minute exercise workout, prepare healthy meals for the day, teach fourth grade from 7:30am to 2:30pm, teach in the afterschool programme and either perform, rehearse, or teach dance at Indisu Dance Theatre of St. Maarten. Bear in mind that lots of preparation is done as well.

How can the dance profession be enhanced in St. Maarten?

St. Maarten has lots of talented dancers and performers. What some do not see is the amount of time, training, practice, finance, creativity and discipline that goes into this profession. So by first understanding these points, the dance profession will be more respected. I am currently a member of the newly-created Nirvana Dance Company by Indisu Dance Theatre, where I am currently experiencing this issue.

Future plans?

For now, I plan to go back to New York City to continue networking with elite dance teachers, agencies and companies. I am also working on starting a professional semester at Broadway Dance Center for four months. Being a professional working dancer abroad will be a great learning experience to share with the young upcoming artists on the island.

I am also an educator and having taught primary school for three years, I am interested in pursuing my Master's in Curriculum Development and Instruction.

Hobbies?

Swimming, reading, travelling, shopping and watching movies.

What is your advice to youngsters, who look up to you and aspire to also become a successful dancer/choreographer?

My advice to these aspiring young artists is to hold their vision, no matter what, and trust the process. Make sure to focus on technique and individuality. Keep an open mind to different constructive criticisms, never feel comfortable, and always remember that they are using their gift for a positive change. Respect and honour your individuality, as well as different dance art forms.

You are a role model for many. Who are your role models and why?

I have many role models on the island, but the ones whom I am close to are my mother, Ursula Dijkhoffz, Ihndhira Marlin and Susha Hein. My mother has this selfless, disciplined virtue that would sacrifice everything to just make me happy. Ursula Dijkhoffz has been a second mother to me, where her wisdom and nurturing actions have enlightened me in many ways. Her family, as well, has been very supportive throughout my journey. Ihndhira Marlin has been my role model ever since I was six years old, and she still is. She is my mentor, sister, teacher and now colleague, who imparted a lot to me. Although we have grown to have our own beliefs and opinions, I will always feel inspired watching her perform every minute she steps foot on stage. I honour Susha Hien's dignity in being true to herself and for not letting any impediments stumble the path towards her ultimate goal.

What are some of the things on your bucket list?

Dancing in New York was the most important thing that I wanted to do before I die. But I seek to do more, which is dancing on Broadway, being a back-up dancer for international soca artists, Beyonce and Rihanna. The most important thing on my bucket list is building a school that will invest in and cultivate aspiring young artists in St. Maarten. I absolutely want to do sky diving too.

Favourite type of music? Which artistes do you listen to?

I honestly do not have a favourite. Music is expression, therefore any music and artistry that relate to my feelings, thoughts and beliefs, I will automatically connect with it. I do not listen to any particular artists, because as I stated, I listen to any music that I connect with. Artists I love to listen to include Sade, Bob Marley, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Trey Songz, John Legend, Drake, T.I., The Piano Guys and Beyonce.

If you could invite three famous people (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be and what would you cook for them?

Will Smith, Sandra Bullock and Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. (T.I.). I would definitely expose them to St. Maarten local food. Since I'm not the best in cooking chicken legs and Johnny cakes, or stew chicken wings and rice and peas, fried plantain and a green salad, I would definitely ask my mother to assist me.