Imagine being granted the opportunity to dance at a professional level and to be a part of Rihanna’s VMA dance performance, only to be cancelled at the last minute. Well, this was the reality faced by Wendell Bullen, one of Grenada’s leading professional dancers and choreographers, after he was dropped from the gig over not having the necessary paperwork ready in time as proof of his permanent US residency.
Receiving his first major disappointment came early in his career and was among many other challenges he faced as budding young and upcoming dancer before receiving his first breakthrough to dance alongside Janet Jackson and Daddy Yankee in their music video “Made for Now” released on 16 August 2018.
The self-taught dancer shared his story because he believes that many people see the glamor of success but fail to recognise the hard work, dedication, disappointment and misfortune that comes with it.
“There were countless times where I had to get turned down from tours with big name artistes. For instance, I got hired to perform for Rihanna for the VMAs, so I went to the rehearsals and everything, but the day before the VMAs I pretty much got kicked out because all the necessary paperwork that they needed, they couldn’t get it from me so I missed that opportunity,” Bullen said.
Bullen decided to pursue his dreams and sought to create other avenues to earn a living while awaiting the completion of his paperwork. “I continue pressing on with my dancing and started exploring more aspects of dance. I also do musical theatre while I was in the process of getting the right paperwork I will go off and do party promotion… I will go to certain private events and I’ll be that entertainment. I would go perform for bar mitzvahs, weddings and for corporate parties and on the side, I was training to become a dance teacher and choreographer.”
With his recent success, Bullen is determined more than ever to assist other young aspiring Grenadian dancers, by utilising another major opportunity presented to him — to be a part of a major Europe and US tour with Puerto Rican singer and songwriter Carlos Efrén Reyes Rosado, better known by his stage name Farruko.
According to Bullen, this will be the perfect opportunity to network with other major names in dance and entertainment and in return be able to have them visit Grenada to provide mentorship and opportunities for local dancers. “I tour as a dancehall dance teacher sometimes with hip-hop, as well so I am definitely building the right connections and networking with the right people. So that so where I can actually visit to teach and give some type of exchange and possibly in the future have people from those countries come here with me to Grenada.”
Born in Hillsborough, Carriacou, Bullen fell in love with dancing at a tender age and throughout his formative years as a student of L’Esterre Rosary School and later both the Grenada Boys Secondary School and Hillsborough Secondary School, had the experience of dancing in various talent shows and for local artistes. However, it was his relocation to the United States that saw him benefit from participating in a free dance training programme at The Door, A Centre of Alternatives Inc in Manhattan, spearheaded by one of Madonna’s former dancers Anthony Rodriguez.
With the demand for dancers internationally increasing, Bullen hopes to inspire a new dance revolution in Grenada where practitioners can see themselves making a livelihood out from the artform. “There should be things happening for dancers throughout the year and I feel like with the right people backing me up I feel I can actually bring what the dancers need in Grenada as far as training for them to become professional dancers.”
Bullen is awaiting the opportunity to assist in choreographing the dance performance while on tour with Farruko which is set to begin in July and end in September 2019. He briefly visited Grenada to adjudicate the ‘Take it to D streets’ dance competition hosted by the Ministry of Culture and conducted free dance workshops at the Grenada Trade Centre.