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DTX comes of age

Observer senior reporter

Thursday, November 02, 2017

LAST weekend, Dance Theatre Xaymaca (DTX), staged their 22nd season of dance at the Little Theatre in St Andrew.

For two nights, the company formed by Barbara McDaniel, showcased a rich, textured and diverse set of works which highlighted a level of maturity and a sensibility reflecting their coming of age.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of this year's performance by DTX is the level of commitment and the conditioning of the members. The dancers displayed purpose as they moved through the eight pieces which made up the programme. McDaniel and her team have clearly invested the time and energy required to take the members from just dancing for the love of it, to being a sharp unit. There is still a far way to go, but something is beginning to happen at DTX, and it looks good.

This season, the company was pushed creatively and physically by the various choreographers brought in to create the programme — Jessica Shaw, Nicholas McPherson, Michael Holgate, Catherine Reid,Onaje, the in-demand Renee McDonald and McDaniel. Each artiste brought their differing styles to create an entertaining evening.

McPherson's Nemow leaned towards the gospel idiom. Here the stirring, Academy Award-winning music of John Legend and Common Glory helped to propel the intensity of this piece. The strength of the choreography made this piece pleasing to the senses.

McDaniel took physicality up a notch in creating Space of Mind. This modern dance piece focused on the relationship between dance and the surroundings. Always theatrical, McDaniel relied on props. The dancers interacted with barrels from which they leaped, balanced, and sought support. With a strong emphasis on dramatic extensions, the dancers had to prove their conditioning for this piece to work... and it did.

Being a Jamaican company, it is always great to see works reflecting our culture. Trodding Through and Talk To Wi Nice did that. The former looked at Rastafari influences, while the latter took on popular culture in the form of dancehall. It was clear that the dancers had fun with the dancehall piece as it flowed organically.

Perhaps the most dramatic work of the evening was Thirst, choreographed by Onaje. Staged with floating helium balloons, suspended props and glitter, all these elements in this work competed for your attention, and at some point you lost focus due to the multiplicity of activity occurring concurrently. Some re-working could be done on this piece to slow down the pace at which these moments unfold.

Renee McDonald, fresh from her work with international company Ailey II, staged Until November Ends for DTX. Jigsaw came from dancer/choreographer Jessica Shaw — the daughter of well known local choreographer Paula Shaw, while McDaniel's ode to Africa, Cry Freedom, brought the curtails down.

McDaniel prides herself on mass choreography, and as artistic director of DTX she clearly brings that to bear on all the pieces, whether or not it is her work. So at any given time, the Little Theatre stage was occupied by six or more dancers. In an effort to showcase more of the skills of individual dancers, thought could be given to creating more solos and duets, even within the works involving the company, for variety.