want to open my dance studio. I want to be a very positive
role model to my children in South, especially children
from low-income homes. I would like to provide an arena
where they could express themselves theatrically not only
in dance (but) drama also. So Im seeing how much I
could educate myself, said Michelle Allison Pilgrim
of her plans for the future.
Pilgrim, an accomplished dancer and model, had just returned
home from New York to perform at the From Janks to Strands
Hair and Fashion Show, held recently at the Naparima Bowl,
San Fernando by her godmother, Merate Kristos. The dance,
entitled Strength and Hope, was extremely well received
by the audience, thus prompting our meeting.
Their Guardian Angel
Known also as WeleteMikael (daughter of St Michael) in the
Ethiopian Orthodox faith to which she belongs, this beautiful
and talented young woman has taken up the mantle of teacher
and role model for children wishing to pursue a future in
the performing arts.
Its a responsibility Pilgrim doesnt treat lightly.
I have a lot of students looking up to me and to me
thats a positive thing because when you have children
looking up to you, it kind of makes you hold back from doing
a lot of negative stuff
cause you know that
they are looking. It doesnt mean that youre
going to be perfect
cause Im not. At least
youre going to be conscious of it, she said.
Pilgrim, a former schoolteacher, has already established
her own company, the Dance Forever Contemporary Theatre,
and conducts classes at the Creative Arts Centre in San
Fernandoher birthplacewhenever shes in
The rest of time she spends at her home in Queens, New York,
focusing on pursuits in modelling, theatre and dance; experiences
she hopes to be able to pass on to her students once she
finally returns home and develops her studio.
kind of living a dream for them, she said. Im
looking to see how much exposure I could get to introduce
them to the things that I didnt get to do when I was
14, 15, 16
Sometimes you have to leave to succeed
Pilgrim, who also trains children for queen shows, made
the point that there are not many agencies in Trinidad that
provide opportunities for gifted youngsters to further their
craft abroad or even parents willing to risk all by packing
up and flying their children overseas to pursue artistic
Given the short life expectancy of these professions, it
may already be too late by the time these children come
of age and are able to pursue them on their own.
Thanking her parents Lennox and Yvonne for their continued
support, Pilgrim admitted that even she has encountered
stumbling blocks in her attempts to further her modelling
career due to her age, although she does not look her 28
years. She said that in March she braved auditions for Cycle
II of the ever-popular Americas Next Top Model television
Feeling anxious about her age especially when surrounded
by thousands of teenagers, Pilgrim, who received her modelling
training at the House of Jacqui, managed to make it among
the last hundred candidates from which three potential finalists
were selected. She wasnt one of them but at least
her photos are now in the right hands and hopefully something
good will come of it.
thinking that even if I cant do it, at least let me
find out what you need to do it and I could have my dance
school and groom children in Trinidad to eventually not
one day have the brain drain where they leave here, go abroad
and never come back; but they go and they learn and come
back and they give, she stated.
Small town girl
Pilgrims dance career started at a tender age when
her mother sent her to train at the Naparima Bowl under
the tutelage of Eric Butler.
I used to be in front of the television doing everything
so they took me to dance with Mr Butler at age
three and I never stopped, she stated.
Years later, at age 17, she began training for tours with
one of Butlers former students, Erica Rawlins, artistic
director of Rebound Entertainment, a touring theatrical
company then managed by Paula Atherley. This led her to
her first tour to Massachusetts in 2000 and later in 2001.
She also performed as a cast member of the UniverSoul Circus
between 2005 and 2007, travelling and appearing at venues
across the US and meeting celebrities like Steve Harvey
and Blair Underwood.
Locally, Pilgrim appeared in numerous shows including the
Astor Johnson Repertory Show at Queens Hall and the
Prime Ministers Best Village Trophy Competition. She
also performed with members of the Caribbean School of Dance
and has displayed her talent at various queen shows and
talent competitions, at home and abroad. Her next target
is to bring home the title at the Miss T&T New York
Competition when she returns to the Big Apple.
Some of Pilgrims awards/titles include:
Best Female Dancer (National) at SanFest (1993, 1995)
Best Hairstyle and Make-up and Miss Amity at the Miss La
Reine Rive Competition (1999)
Best Talent at the Miss T&T Talent Competition (2003)
Best Physique and Best Talent at the Miss Sacha Face International
First Runner-up and Best Talent at the Miss PJD2 Caribbean
Queen Competition in
St Martin (2003)