Baxter, Ivy (1923–1993) By Sörgel, Sabine
In the years pre-dating Jamaican independence, Ivy Baxter pioneered a new approach towards dance theatre as a community art form. Along with Beryl McBurnie and Lavinia Williams, she was known as one of the leading figures of Caribbean dance, pioneering what was called bare foot movement in the 1950s. Dissatisfied with the teachings of Eurocentric ballet, Baxter was the first Jamaican dance choreographer to explore the island’s diverse Africanist folk forms and to blend and integrate folk forms with modern expressionist dance of the Sigurd Leeder and Rudolf Laban school. As the founder of Ivy Baxter Dance Group in 1950, she became part of the national independence movement reformulating an African Jamaican national identity by celebrating African cultural roots and traditions. Her dance theatre included narrative elements that dramatized local customs and daily life and used live drumming and local music accompaniment by the Frats Quintet (an all-male group of local singers). Among the early members of her company were such dancers and choreographers as Rex Nettleford, Clive Thompson, and Garth Fagan. Her book The Arts of an Island (1970) was among the first written accounts of Jamaican dance forms and influenced many dancers and choreographers who followed her lead.