VIRGINIA ‘VIRGIE’ ALEXANDER
She was born Julienne Virginia Alexander to her mother Coretta, and her father Victor Alexander, on January 7th 1948. The Laborie native was a student of the St. Joseph’s Convent who, from an early age, showed interest in the Arts as a member of the teenage square dancing group. In the late sixties she became a member of the Creative and Performing Arts Society (CPAS) on the advice of the late Patricia ‘Pat’ Charles who saw great promise in the young dancer.
The highly talented Julienne worked with the late Roderick Walcott and Charles Cadet in the creation of their productions for the musicals The Banjo Man (1969, 1972) and Chanson Marianne (1974). Additionally, she contributed to the work of Derek Walcott and the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, which the acclaimed Saint Lucian writer founded in 1959. Her work was further supported through the Saint Lucia Arts Guild where her role as dancer and choreographer accompanied those of Kendel Hippolyte, Arthur Jacobs, Dunstan St. Omer, Patricia Charles, George Odlum, Hogarth Hippolyte, Irvin Norville and Marina Compton, among others.
In 1972, ‘Auntie Virgie’, as she would come to be known, formed the Les Enfants Junior Dance Troupe, which she hoped would spur social change and would serve children between six and twelve years. The training which she so selflessly provided produced a core crop of Saint Lucian dancers who have themselves passed on these skills to other generations. They include Christine Samuel, Anthony ‘Cocky’ Jn Baptiste, Tania Isaac, Micole Aubertin and the late Azizi Alexander. To these and many others she was Auntie Virgie, as she loved, cared and nurtured them as her own children, Ché, Hewan and Shane Odlum.
In 1976, Virgie studied dance and choreography with the Martha Graham Dance Group in the United States. In the eighties, she worked with the Government of Saint Lucia in the Department of Culture, which later became the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF). She was awarded the Saint Lucia Medal of Merit (SLMM), Gold, in 1990 and in 2004, travelled to Buckingham Palace where she received her honours as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
On May 1st 2016, a few of her past dance students will pay tribute to Virginia Alexander as part of the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival’s Icons Series.