Stabroek News

Trinidad stilt walker tours 25 US states

Kaiso Moko Jumbie leader Junior Bisnath, right, and Kayode Duval on stilts leave for the United States to perform in the circus next week.

(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.