(Trinidad Guardian) A Point Fortin youth has gone from never stepping foot out of T&T to touring across more than 25 states in America within a year through the art of stilt walking.
Proudly waving the national flag to all and sundry who visited the UniverSoul Circus, Kayode Duval’s performance was so impressive that he has been asked to return to the circus for a second time. He leaves on Monday for New Jersey and is expected to return at the end of the year.
Duval, known as Balance in the entertainment arena, is one of several students from Kaisokah Moko Jumbies who has represented the country at the circus with a T&T cultural contingent, including limbo dancers, over the past 15 years. The 22-year-old youth said performing at the circus was his biggest dream. “It is a dream come through for me,” Duval told the T&T Guardian yesterday.
“It is something I always wanted to do. The best part of performing across there was waving the flag before thousands of people. They (patrons) enjoyed it to the fullest. The crowd would get excited when we wave the flag.”
He said some people had expressed a desire to visit T&T after some of his performances.
He recalled that from a tender age he had watched youths in his community doing stilt walking.
“I used to be bothering my grandmother and asking her to join. So when I was about three or four-years-old my grandmother put me to stand up on two milk pans for me to get my balance and by age five I was walking on three-and-a-half-foot long stilts.”
He said he started off with Dexter Stewart and Associates from Point Fortin and then branched off to the Junior Bisnath’s school of art.
Duval, who now walks on five-and-a-half-foot long stilts, has been performing at different events, including Carnival and Borough Day activities, for the past seven years. His presence at the circus was initially requested in 2015 and 2016 but he did not have a passport.
“I finally left last year January and I came back in December. Atlanta was the first place I performed and then I travelled to other states within the US.”
He also travelled once to the United Kingdom where he performed in Scotland.
“It was very exciting for me. The first time I performed I was a bit nervous,” he said adding the T&T contingent’s dance routine was mostly to soca hits from Machel Montano.
“This is the biggest opportunity you can get out of stilt walking. From the time the crowd sees the flag they go mad. This was one of the proudest moments in my life.”
He said his only sadness during the period was that he missed the birth of his first child Khaliyah, who is now seven months-old.
He said stilt walking can play a significant role in reducing crime.
“There will be fewer children on the streets and it is also a way of instilling discipline in youths.”
Duval worked as a rigger and banksman before the circus stint. He encouraged his fellow Moko Jumbies to continue to represent T&T proudly and thanked Bisnath and Stewart for their support and encouragement.
Bisnath said each year three or four stilt walkers join the circus and depending on their performance and conduct they would be asked to return.
“Some of our boys end up getting wife and children and building a life across there,” he said.
Bisnath said one of his goals is to have a stilt-walking programme in every school.
“In every school, you could have more than 200 children wanting to do silt walking.”
However, he said through the National Carnival Commission they have been visiting schools throughout the country to train young moko jumbies. He said this was also a way of building cordial relationships among youths who live in warring communities. The youngest silt walker he trained was his son Ojah at the age of 11 months and the oldest person was age 76, he said.
Bisnath said he will be making another attempt to enter the Guinness World Records with the largest moko jumbie contingent to gather in one place. He tried last year on his 60th birthday but fell short with only 500 silt walkers gathered at Skinner Park.
Duval was one of the moko jumbies who performed at the opening of the Diego Martin Sporting Complex last weekend which was attended by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.