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Hidden Gems: Meet Courtney Spears & Asa Cary of ArtSea Dance

Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney Spears.

Courtney, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I had just started my own professional career as a member of Ailey 2, junior company of The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. While I was in Ailey 2, we had the honor of performing in my home country, The Bahamas, where all of my family is currently located. I’ve always had a deep attachment to my roots, culture, and Caribbean values, so when I had the opportunity to mix my passion with my home, it was unlike any other experience. So many young dancers, who had never seen professional dance before, came out to see us perform that night. And in that moment, I knew I wanted to do more. While in the Bahamas on New Years Day, I brought the idea of creating an organization that hosted workshops to provide dance education to my brother, Asa Cary. Asa thrives in the event management business and I knew that his eye for logistics and execution would mesh beautifully with my artistic vision. And that year, back in 2016, we co-founded ArtSea Dance together with the aim of bridging the gap between The Bahamas and vast dance world abroad.

This year marks five years since our very first workshop and I couldn’t be more proud and excited to see how much we’ve grown since that New Years Day. Since our inception, we’ve raised over $50,000 to host our workshops, flown over 20 globally celebrated teachers & dancers, and engaged with over 400 students. Our community has grown into a family of teachers, dancers, students, and sponsors. And with this year marking our 5th year, we are thrilled to be back on the ground in Nassau with a new series and partner. For our 5th year, we are beyond excited to be partnering with The Island House, a prominent, beautifully constructed boutique hotel and gathering space in Nassau, Bahamas, that is dedicated to promoting the arts, culture, health and wellness. Our classes and community talkback will be held on their property and will serve as the location for the rest of the year. Instead of having one large, week-long workshop over the summer, which is our typical programming, we will bring down four guest artists over the course of the year to offer more opportunities for students. It also allows us to get a better handle on Covid-19 safety precautions. Both Asa and I are so excited to kick off this year and see our vision continue to bloom.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Starting a business was new for both Asa and I. I was a dancer and had been to workshops of this magnitude but had never put one on myself. Asa has produced many events for brands and concerts but had to learn exactly what goes into executing an educational dance workshop. We also had to grow and cultivate trust between our island community we wanted to reach. Whether it was our sponsors who financially support us or parents who trusted us with our kids, it took time for us to build our branding and name to get people to trust what we were doing. Like so many businesses, we had to make major adjustments because of the pandemic. We had to cancel our 2020 workshop and get creative on how to reach our student following. After lots of brainstorming and support from colleagues. Asa and I were able to launch many virtual initiatives to keep students uplifted and engaged. From free Instagram classes to a panel discussion series and virtual after-school program, we did our best to keep our mission of empowering the Bahamian dance community alive. But most importantly, we have had an incredible village to support us. We’ve been blessed to have teachers, parents, and sponsors believe in us from the very beginning and they’ve continued to empower us as we build each year.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
As we celebrate five years of ArtSea, both Asa and I have high hopes for what we can continue to build. I think a partnership with a brand and hotel as prominent as The Island House is a great start in the right direction. We hope to provide more scholarship opportunities for students who want to travel abroad. We hope to have more consistent programming that offers even more dance, wellness, and college prep courses. But most importantly, we hope to see ArtSea have enough of a foundation to provide consistent dance training on the island that propels young dancers into their careers. Our goal is to help as many dancers make their dreams a reality and provide the necessary tools to make that happen.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
All Dance photos: Braxton Gardiners All portraits in blue and white: Mariah Gravelin

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