Western News

St Lucia shines at Sandals/Beaches talent show

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 13, 2012    

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WHITEHOUSE, Westmoreland — On an exceptional evening of talent, the island of St Lucia snagged two of the major titles in this year's international finals of the ENCORE (Entertainment Now Creates Opportunities Rewarding Excellence), staged annually across the Sandals/ Beaches properties in the Caribbean.

The event was held in the Le Cabaret Theatre at Sandals Whitehouse last Friday, in front of a receptive audience which included many of the resort's guests.

Yasmin Butcher, from the training and development department of Sandals La Toc in St Lucia was adjudged the best female singer, while that Caribbean Island also won the Best Costume award.

Other winners were: Best Male Vocalist, Mark Branker of the maintenance department in Sandals Antigua; Best Dancer, Ariel Marte fom the entertainment department of Beaches Turks and Caicos; Top Male Model, Rolel Dyce from the entertainment department, Beaches Ocho Rios and Top Female Model, Elan McKay of the Sandals Royal Bahamian's entertainment department.

ENCORE is the brainchild of Sandals' creative director Weston Haughton, and started in 2003 to showcase the vast array of talent present in the company.

Under the initiative each region in Jamaica: Montego Bay; Negril; and, Ocho Rios; staged their regional finals to select champions in the respective categories who then move on to the Jamaican finals. The Jamaican champions then compete against winners from Sandals/Beaches Resorts in St Lucia, Antigua, Turks & Caicos, and the Bahamas for the international crowns.

Under the initiative each region in Jamaica: Montego Bay; Negril; and, Ocho Rios; staged their regional finals to select champions in the respective categories who then move on to the Jamaican finals. The Jamaican champions then compete against winners from Sandals/Beaches Resorts in St Lucia, Antigua, Turks & Caicos, and the Bahamas for the international crowns.

Friday evening's show got off to an excitement start from the moment, Haughton, the master of ceremonies with his usual crisp and distinct voice, brought on stage contestants in the costume parade of the participating nations.

The contestants then eased into their musical performances, then beachwear parade; dance segment and finally the evening wear parade with their well-choreographed routines.

But it was perhaps the musical performances that highlighted the evening, as Branker had to fight off stiff competition from Jamaica's Joel Johnson in the male segment, while Butcher and Natassia Davy of Sandals Grande Riviera in Jamaica battled for the top female spot.

"I was a bit surprise that I won," said an elated Butcher. "I was a little nervous and I knew that I could have done much better," she added, referring to her rendition of Christina Aguilera's Bound to You.

And the Antigua's Branker, said he too was surprised.

"I was quite surprised because the singer from Jamaica (Johnson) was quite amazing. He gave a very good performance, but in the end I worked very hard for the title and it paid off, and I am exceedingly happy for it," said a smiling Branker, who did an excellent rendition of Adele's One and Only.

Both winners in the musical performances segment were great on stage, wooing the audience with their remarkable presence and showmanship, that had the audience applauding wildly.

Oliver Samuels, who was the chief judge at the talent show, remarked that the event was of a high standard.

"It had been a wonderful evening. We really enjoyed ourselves, the performances were excellent," said Samuels, as he congratulated Sandals for the initiative.

According to Haughton, ENCORE which showcases the talents of team members from the various resorts around the Caribbean was introduced to encourage camaraderie, to motivate and to provide unique opportunities to staff to widen their horizons.

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