Poi performer and fire dancer George Woodley was one of the big arts and entertainment winners at the recently held Topian Awards ceremony, in which persons in the industry were recognised for their work. Woodley won Best Mail Poi performer and Best Spotter. A Spotter is someone who assists stilt walkers during their performances while Poi is a form of dance, where weights on the ends of tethers are swung through rhythmical patterns. It is rooted in the culture of the Maori people of New Zealand (Aotearoa), who dance with poi poi in traditional ceremonies. Woodley tells us more about himself and his life as a performer in this week’s Hot Seat.

Who is George Woodley?

I am a selfless person, who is very passionate about what I believe in and I work very hard to achieve my goals.

How would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself as a very nice and helpful guy. I always look out for other people, sometimes before I even look out for myself. I am also a man of my word and I do not like to let people down. I am also a very dependable person.

Education?

I attended Oranje primary school in Philipsburg. I then attended Sundial for the first two years of my secondary education and was then transferred to Milton Peters College (MPC) where I studied electrical engineering. I completed two years in the PBL stream and received my first diploma, then completed an extra year in the PKL stream and got my second diploma. I studied Electrical Engineering because I love physics. The minute I began the classes, I knew this was for me.

How did you end up being a Poi performer and fire dancer?

Almost a year ago, Funtopia introduced fire dancing to the list of entertainment it offers and I signed up for it. Before you start with the fire, you must practice Poi dancing. I rapidly advanced in it and eventually began to use the fire and became the first fire dancer in Funtopia and I really liked it very much. I eventually learned how to blow fire because it was needed in this field and I became very good at it. I am currently the only fire dancer at Funtopia. Poi dancing is a type of art called flow arts, which is basically spinning two items at the end of each string and you make circular motions. It can be done in different ways, such as with LED lights and with fire.

What inspired you and what is it that you like about this field?

My instructor inspired me because she would encourage me to learn as much as I can. Just by watching her spin and blow fire, it was really amusing so I also wanted to express such talent and amaze people with my skills. I also like the fact that there is always something new to learn and there is always room for improvement. I just enjoy everything there is about it.

What kind of poi performer are you?

I am a very amusing Poi performer to watch because I always make sure I mesmerize my crowd during my performances.

What differentiates you from other poi performers and artistes?

I always focus on making myself better as I execute my performance and I can adapt to any environment that I have to perform in.

How and where did you develop your skills?

I developed my skills in Funtopia constantly practicing with my Poi instructor and even practicing on my own at home and watching videos online.

Where have you performed in the past?

I have performed many times all over the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin, also in Dominica, St. Eustatius, Saba and Anguilla.

How does it feel to win the Topian Award?

It’s an amazing feeling inside when your name gets called and you go up for that award and you are recognised for your hard work and dedication.

What do you think gave you the edge over other nominees?

My self-confidence during my performances; I always give 110% when I am performing.

Have you ever received any other awards in this field?

I won the TelCell Breakthrough competition in October last year.

Aside from performing, what is your career ambition?

I would like to obtain my Master’s Degree in electrical engineering.

What is your advice to other youths who also want to learn about poi performance?

My advice to them is that they should not be scared to learn and they should always do their best. Be patient and you will learn everything you need to learn in order to master this skill.

What are your future goals?

To go and study abroad so that in the future I may come back to St. Maarten and help make a positive change.

Hobbies?

My only hobby besides my performances is sports.

What is your favourite type of music?

I listen to all types of music once I like the song. I have no favourite artistes.

If you could invite three famous people (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be and what would you cook for them?

I would invite Albert Einstein, Steven Hawking and Nikola Tesla and I would probably cook them some Spanish food.

Radio personality and managing director of Caribe Broadcasting Network/Island92 Jeffrey “Dr. Soc” Sochrin (49) has embarked on a new venture in radio. He tells us more about it in this week’s Hot Seat.

Who is Jeffrey ‘Dr. Soc’ Sochrin?

Driven, hardworking, focused, fun and a beach bum at heart – I find it very hard to say no to anyone.

How did you end up in beautiful St. Maarten?

I grew up in Seymour and Milford, Connecticut, USA, and came to St. Maarten with my parents in 1982. My parents had fallen in love with St. Maarten in the mid-1970s and decided they wanted to retire here. So they eventually purchased a vacation home here, and St. Maarten became our regular home away from home.

How did you discover your love for radio?

I remember as a child being fascinated with radio. Back in the 1970s in Connecticut, everyone listened to the radio to find out what was happening – not so different than here on St. Maarten. My morning radio guy was Big Al Warren on WICC, based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Big Al was always there to tell me if school was cancelled due a blizzard or if something else was going on in the local community. I remember as a child, calling in to the radio station to make a request one evening, on a program called Instant Request. I never realised the radio bug bit me at such a young age, but I now know, after almost a decade on the air at Island 92, it was my calling in life to talk.

How did you hone that love?

I guess I have always been a natural speaker. I love to talk in front of a group. I often find myself thinking about our listeners, especially early in the morning when it’s only me, my coffee and the microphone in the studio. The real key is to be yourself, and talk to your audience. If you find it interesting, chances are your audience will feel the same way.

What differentiates you from other radio personalities?

Island 92 and soon-to-be Z105.1 are a family. Everyone who listens, all of our clients and all team members – both on and off the air – are part of the family. It has to be that way in our small town surrounded by water. We have extended family members around the globe that listen to us online from wherever they may be in the world, because they long to be on St. Maarten. This means more to me than I can ever express in words. This passion, the love for our island and my extended radio family are what make ol’ Dr. Soc different from all the rest. The character I play on the radio is very much me, although I must admit some of the far out perspectives or opinions are exaggerated to get a reaction – but at the end of the day, it’s just me talking to my extended family. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What do you like about your job?

I love the fact that I can say something on the air and by the time I sneak out to lunch in the middle of the day, people are repeating what they heard on the radio. I try very hard to make sure our listeners around the globe understand what a special place St. Maarten is to me. It’s my adopted home and I don’t think I could ever leave.

What do you set out to achieve when you go on air each day?

I hope I can bring a smile to the face of as many listeners as possible every day. I hope I can influence members of our community, in spite of all the silliness, to adhere to the golden rule and the Rotary four-way test. If we can all treat each other the way we would like to be treated ourselves, and at the end of the day always remember to ask, “Is it the truth?” “Is it fair to all concerned?” “Will it build good will and better friendships?” “Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”, there is nothing that we can’t achieve here on St Maarten.

And where can people tune in to listen to Soc?

Fresh Air in the Morning with Dr. Soc airs weekdays from 7:00 to11:00 on Island 92 (91.9) FM and on Z105.1 FM (starting February 1) locally; or online at www.island92.com and www.z1051.com, or any streaming services like tunein.com.

Tell us about the new radio station?

About six months ago, an opportunity presented itself to acquire ZRON 105.1 FM, based on Anguilla. With that opportunity came the next question: “What are we going to play on Z105.1?” We are rockers to our core, but we needed to come up with something that fits our audience without straying too far from our roots. Eric Boyer, my good friend and associate at Island 92 (ERB to our listeners), suggested we explore a Classic Hits format, the more popular stuff from the mid-1970s through mid-1990s. Simply stated, Z105.1 was born on January 1, with its new Classic Hits format. Beginning February 1, Fresh Air in the Morning with Dr. Soc will air simultaneously on both stations, giving our programming the biggest reach in the Northeast Caribbean.

How did the alias Dr. Soc come about?

Let’s be honest, “Fresh Air in the Morning with Jeffrey” sounds horrible. I had to come up with a good radio name. My last name “Sochrin” kind of naturally brings about the nickname Soc. As a matter of fact, it was and still is my father’s nickname. So, I guess I stole Dad’s name. In 2012, a group from AUC came to the studio with a white doctor-coat, a stethoscope and an honorary “Doctor of Radio-ology” degree and proclaimed, “You are now Dr. Soc.” I now affectionately refer to Dad as “Pop Soc.”

What are you involved in outside of radio?

I’m a member of the Rotary Club of St. Maarten, serving as the president from 2015 to 2016; I’m treasurer of St. Maarten Yacht Club for almost five years, and treasurer of St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. Recently, I became an adjunct member of the faculty at University of St. Martin, teaching in the business programme. I’m also chairman/founder of Team Goldendog Foundation, which strives to help homeless animals find their forever homes.

What’s your favourite type of music?

I love rock, new and old. I also like all the popular music of the 1980s. I love all the music of the rock era, along with many of the standards of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack. My favourite rock band is Led Zeppelin; favourite Led Zeppelin song is Fool in the Rain; favourite song of all time is Don McClean’s American Pie.

If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be?

Ronald Reagan – he was president when I was in high school; Farrah Fawcett and Frank Sinatra, whose music I love, and if I could add a fourth, it would be Johnny Carson from The Tonight Show. He made me laugh and feel good.

David Beffort is the brainchild behind the recently-launched Friendly Flip Flops, the footwear that keeps a foot on each side of the island. The flip flops represent this lovely dual nation island and are distinctly designed with the left side being in the colours of the Dutch St. Maarten Flag and the right side in the colours of the French St. Martin flag.

The unique footwear and souvenir items were originally introduced at the St. Martin/St. Maarten Day ceremonies in French Quarter on November 11, 2016, and were transformed into reality last week when launched. Part proceeds from the footwear sales will go to associations working on behalf of the island’s youth under the campaign “Walking Forward Together.”

The flip flops are all the rage with the two airports on the island agreeing to create displays of the big flip flops, while French St. Martin Tourism Office plans to promote them on their travels to trade shows. Also, some 700 taxis will have a miniature pair of flip flops to hang from their rear view mirrors.

Who is David Beffort?

I am a creative and passionate person who loves life and is very curious. I am very curious about life. I think I look at life through the same eyes that children do. I don’t see labels and limits.

Education?

I did sports and study school. In the mornings, I attended regular school classes and then trained for dance – modern jazz and ballet – in the afternoons. I finished school with a letter of recommendation to attend Claude Bessy Opéra de Paris, which is France’s national secondary school. I obtained a Baccalaureate Mention – Assez-Bien.

How did you end up on this beautiful island?

I am originally from Chevreuse in Paris, France. My mother sent me here to St. Maarten to heal and live with my godfather after I was involved in a serious car accident. Dance was finished for me due to the accident. I was 19 when I came here in 1993. I didn't know what to expect. I do know, however, that within five minutes of stepping outside of the airport, that not only would I be healed, but that I was at home. The energy and spirit of St. Maarten captivated me immediately, as did its incredible beauty. But it was the people most of all who made me fall in love. This cosmopolitan melting pot effortlessly sustains people from different cultures, different religions and different backgrounds – all under the maternal watchfulness of the Caribbean. The community embraced me and I quickly came to realise why St. Maarten is called “The Friendly Island”. You have to look no further than the story of the Treaty of Concordia and the commitment of the French and Dutch to peacefully co-exist in order to capture the essence of the island.

What inspired the idea for The Friendly Flip Flop?

I realised how powerful it was to be able to stand on the border with a foot in both countries.

What is the concept behind Friendly Flip Flops?

It signifies walking forward together and is part of a fundraising initiative to benefit our youth. Everyone can support us by just liking us on Facebook_Walking Forward Together. Our campaign is: “Like us is a donation.”

Why should every resident and visitor to St. Maarten own a pair of Friendly Flip Flops?

They need flip flops. We all need flip flops; so it’s better to buy something that is a great souvenir and at the same time useful to the community. A pair of Friendly Flip Flops costs US $20 or €20 and is available in many stores and boutiques on both sides of the island. The sale points will be listed on our Facebook_Walking Forward Together.

What would you say to encourage youths with ideas like yours to pursue them?

I would encourage them to believe in themselves and to always persevere. I would have stopped doing so many things had I not stuck with them. Stay true to your dreams even if you are alone.

What else do you do?

I am an international marketing consultant.

Tell us something about yourself that no one else knows?

My friends call me Davidou.

Pet peeve and why?

Bad wine – Damn it!

Biggest fear?

That I might not be living life to its fullest.

Favourite quote?

Albert Einstein: “There are not great discoveries and advances, as long as there is an unhappy child on earth.”

Role models?

Everybody.

What’s your favourite type of music?

I like many different kinds of music such as Jazz, Motown and Classical, but if I had to take one CD with me to a desert island, it would definitely be reggae.

If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and what would you serve?

I would invite Prince, Bob Marley and Michael Jackson. They have influenced anyone else I would have invited. I would ask them to take a vote and then I would prepare and serve whatever they came up with.

Entrepreneur Beatrice Richardson- Piper is a soft spoken and open minded young lady, who’s always wanted to own her own business. Her dream was not confirmed until the last months of 2015. It’s then that she found her passion, which is maintaining and advising/consulting with black women who wear their hair natural.

Who is Beatrice Richardson- Piper?

A young entrepreneur, Mother of 3, and I’m happily married.

I grew up in a business owner household as my father had his own Auto parts shop. RoI started to work there from the age of 16 and after a while the business was taken over by my sister.

Where were you born?

I was born on the French side of the island.

Education?

I attended Lycée Polyvalent Des Iles Du Nord on the french side of the island.

Hobbies?

I enjoy looking at YouTube hair tutorials and reading about Natural hair

What do you do for a living?

I’m the owner of Glamorous Hairtopia. It’s a store that opened its doors on July 18th, 2016. I offer hair consultations with Naturalistas (black women who wear their hair natural) or persons who are on their way to Naturalista land (transitioning) based on their hair type. I also sell natural hair products, wooden jewelry, fabric and clothing. The clothing consists of natural hair t- shirts and clothing made from African print fabric.

What type of products do you like to use on your hair without?

I absolutely love using natural oils on my hair.

Who’s your favourite natural hair guru?

Jenell Stewart is my absolute favourite and the reason for that is because we appear to have the same type of natural hair. I also admire the manner in which she spends quality time with her family.

What inspired you to open a store?

In 2015 I started a Facebook group called Naturellement Belle in sxm, because there were many people that I would meet, who were interested in tips and ideas as how to care for their hair the best way possible. I consulted and gave advice on hair care and the interest people showed grew. I then contacted Initiative Saint Martin and I also did a survey. The purpose behind the survey was to get a general view of what people were interested in. I received lots of responses to the Survey and they were very positive. This resulted in the decision to open my own store.

What do you like about having your own business?

Being able to determine my own working hours, allows me to spend more time with my family when I want to.

What are some of the challenges that you’ve encountered?

There can be many challenges. An example of such is that there are days you may not earn the amount of money you would have liked to. However, there are other times that make up for the previous days that you earned less.

What do you have planned for 2017 and what are your future goals?

There will be new services offered in my store, such as treating hair, styling hair, new styles of African print clothing, jewellery, and hair care products. I also plan to organize more Workshops.

One of my future goals is to host a huge natural hair event with the association that I created last year and is also a facebook group called "Naturellement Belle in sxm"

What would be your message to anyone who would like to open their own store?

Keep your eyes on your goal and stay focused. You might encounter others who have the same business idea as you do, instead of focusing on competing, look at how you can collaborate with one another. Anytime someone tries to discourage you, keep going towards your dreams.

If someone wants information on your services, how can they contact you?

They can visit my Facebook page Glamorous Hairtopia for more information and contact me via the page or visit my store in Marigot.

Where would you spend your dream holiday?

I would like to travel to Italy, Germany and the African continent, I would love to experience what each of them has to offer.

What are your pet peeves?

I really don’t like to hear the sound of persons dragging their feet while walking.

What’s your favourite quote?

Love your hair and your hair will love you back.

What kind of music do you like to listen to?

I love to listen soul, soft Rnb music from artist such as Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Brian McKnight.

If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party who would they be and what would you cook for them?

I would invite my Husband my Mother and Ms. Jenell B Stewart (the natural hair guru that I admire).The meal which would be prepared would consist of Lasanga, Garlic bread and Plantain. To top it all off, Caramel ice cream would be served for dessert.

Ajay Rawtani, who goes by the deejay name Ajay Raw, will be heating things up at Big Fish Restaurant as he helps patrons to ring in 2017 this New Year’s Eve. Rawtani tells us more about himself and what patrons can expect from him on NYE.

Who is Ajay Rawtani?

I am someone who cannot be labelled. You might not see me coming, but when I do, I am a force to be reckoned with. I am a loyal, passionate, dedicated, patient, creative and kind person. While I am somewhat shy; I can adapt to different social settings and I’m also outgoing, but a homebody at the same time. Music is my heart; family is my soul.

Place of birth?

I was born in Pune, India, but I grew up in St. Maarten since I was six. I lived in the states for more than eight years and returned to St. Maarten in 2003. When someone asks, “Where you from?” I always answer, “I from here.”

Education?

I graduated from Stetson University in Deland, Florida. I majored in Computer Science with a minor in Business Management. My best friend, Ryan Gumbs, introduced me to computers early in my high school days. From then I knew that IT was something I wanted to do as a career.

How did you end up as a deejay?

Deejaying stemmed from the first time I ever walked into a nightclub. Back then, it was Studio 7. There was something about the sound, lighting and people letting themselves go dancing the night away that mesmerized me. The DJ was at the centre of it all. He took everyone on a journey for that night; without him, there was no party. Seemed like a pretty cool gig to me.

What sets you apart from other deejays?

I guess what sets most DJs apart is the music they choose to play. I personally do not care for pop music; I don't like to play it. I love being surprised by a chunky track that I have never heard before that just makes me move. Too often you go to a club and hear the same songs night after night after night. This is not me.

What is it about deejaying that you like?

Deejaying and my music release you from the stresses of everyday life; it’s exhilarating. I like that feeling that you get when you have the floor gyrating to your grooves or when someone comes up to you and says, “Dude, you rocked my night!”

How do you think you contribute to a better society as a deejay?

People go out to listen to music for different reasons. But when they enjoy the music, it moves them and takes them to a happy place. Getting people to a happy place – be it just by the bar or going crazy on the dance floor – as long as it moves you; I think it contributes to a better society.

What are some of the challenges you encounter?

The biggest challenge is club owners or managers, who sometimes want to dictate what you do or what you play. This gets in the way of creativity.

Who are your all-time favourite artistes?

Sasha and Digweed, Paul Oakenfold, Erick Morillo and Chus and Ceballos.

What do you like best about your job?

What I like about it is that this isn't a job for me. I can’t imagine doing this more than once a month. The late nights take a toll on you in many ways. My job is IT and management – deejaying is just my fun.

What can Big Fish patrons expect from your New Year’s Eve performance?

I just recently started having dinner at Big Fish and the owners and chef are great, and I love the venue itself. It’s got this Bagatelle (St. Barths and NY) feel to it and that super club vibe that is just screaming for a party. So I'm planning to bring it. The music will be that deep, chocolaty, funky, tribal house that will progress as the night does. I’ll be on from 9:00 to 2:00am.

Why should people choose your NYE performance over others’?

For me, NYE has always been about a fabulous big night doing something different than what I do the rest of the year. Why would you want to ring in the New Year at the same place you end up every weekend? This is why I am looking forward to Big Fish. Change!

If you could meet any deejay in the world, who would you want to meet and why?

I think it would be Erick Morillo. This guy puts on a hell of a show when he deejays and you can't help but rock out to his tribal funky grooves. He keeps the dance floor packed.

What message do you have for youngsters who want to follow in your footsteps?

Study; get a degree, get job, then have fun deejaying. Deejaying can be very positive, but there are negatives like drugs and alcohol all around the scene. You need to be level-headed and not lose yourself in this industry. Be strong and just say no.

What else are you involved in?

Besides my IT career, I am on the esteemed boards of St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Social Economic Council SER. Both boards are active in shaping and advising on legislation put forth by government. St Maarten is in an economic slump and both organisations are now more important than ever and I do hope that government taps into these resources. The experience and expertise of the respective board members are very valuable.

Do you have any (other) special talents?

I am a major foodie. I love my mouth. I have been inspired by my mother, my aunt and many other tremendous chefs over the years to cook myself. I would like to think I can bang out some great meals. I have a thing for photography too.

Wine or beer?

Definitely wine. I love a good Bordeaux or Margaux. These days I love whites – Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, New Zealand Savignon Blacs.

Dream holiday venue?

London is one of my favourite cities, but anywhere in Europe really. I love the history, culture and the food.

Pet peeve?

Most drivers on St. Maarten roads, especially the ones who drive 10 miles per hour or those who rubber neck and slow traffic when there’s an accident.

Favourite quote?

Never marry someone you can live with; marry someone you can never live without.

If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and what would you serve them?

Ajeet Nandwani, Vicky Chugani and Bob Marley – all taken from us way before their time. We would start with oysters and champagne, salmon carpaccio, then a juicy medium rare rib-eye steak with truffle mashed potatoes and a blue cheese and arugula salad then end with a grand marnier soufflé.

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