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National Institute of Arts: Celebrating Culture with Dance & Laughter

St. Maarten’s talent is a deep well, seemingly fathomless – from our rich past of visual and performance artistes to the new crop of young dancer​s, clowns, and voices ringing out in poetry and song. Nowhere is this talent nurtured and celebrated more than at NIA. St. Maarten’s National Institute of Arts holds court at the John Larmonie Building on Longwall Road in Philipsburg. This is where nearly every day of the month, people young and old gather to share the joy of working hard to perfect their artistic skills.

For many St. Maarten families, NIA is the heart of our community. There is always something brewing in the minds of the teachers, creativity erupting in all directions with colour sound and funky fun.

Last weekend, dancers and clowns took to the cafeteria at St. Maarten’s Home in St. John’s Estate for fun and entertainment. Clara Reyes Folkloric Group performed with colourful costumes to traditional music, delighting the clientele. Then the clow​ns of Albina Matuzko’s Art of Laughter class brought out the silly side of life with a raucous display of nonsense. The afternoon ended with staff, clients, clowns and dancers all getting up to boogie together, smiling and shaking their stuff to a calypso beat. This event was so successful that it is being planned as a monthly date between NIA and St. Maarten’s Home.

This weekend will be a huge party for Constitution Day. This evening at 7:00, in the John Larmonie Building, the NIA family will mark the occasion by telling the “Sweet S’Maatin Story.” It is celebration of both cultural heritage and contemporary arts in music, drama and dance.

Art of Laughter

The idea behind one of NIA’s newest offerings is that there is a spirit of youthful silliness hidden in every person. Of course children access this spirit easily, but the real treat for teacher Albina is seeing the adult group discover its inner clown. The group is composed of engineers, librarians, teachers, chefs, and every other kind of normal grown-up kind of career path. But upon entering this weekly class, the outer shells are left behind and an honest and happy self is released. Participants are said to laugh so hard their sides ache, while forgetting stress and connecting with their long-forgotten inner child.

Art of Laughter adult group has a dream to develop a troupe of “caring clowns” on the island. Visiting the senior’s home is one step in that direction. Similar care-clowns have had much success in hospitals in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Also known as Therapeutic Clowns, they offer the sick and infirmed a chance to express their emotions and interact without judgment. Clowns have been seen as “life-enhancing” and providers of hope in the face of hopelessness.

NIA’s Art of Laughter adult classes meet Tuesdays at 7:00pm at John Larmonie Centre. Interested persons can contact NIA at 543-0600 for more information.

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