Entertainment

NDTC gets it right

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 11, 2019

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The National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) has for a number of year been stressing its mantra of renewal and continuity.

This year's season of dance, which concludes at the Little Theatre in St Andrew tonight, shows that the 57-year-old company has gotten it right. The programme showcases a rich, diverse and engaging body of work. The pieces showcase the range and skill sets not only of the dancers, but also of the company as a whole providing something for even the most discriminating patron.

Founding father of the NDTC, the late Professor Rex Nettleford, always had a spot for introducing young talent into the company and it seems that the current artistic director Marlon Simms, is continuing the work in that regard. It was pleasing to see a the number of new works from a younger set of choreographers, which serves to inject diversity into the company's repertoire. However, what is more impressive is the younger dancers making their mark in the company. Ballet mistress Kerry-Ann Henry and other familiar faces still make an impression, but the younger members of the company are far from being content to stand in their shadows. They are fighting tooth and nail for their moment, and this is reaping rewards for the look and feel of the company.

Among those to watch are Michael Small, Javal Lewis, Mishka Williams, Joelle Flimn, and Jada Buchanan. Seeing some of these youngsters interpret Chris Walker's Troubled Waters was truly renewal at work. It brought to mind works of the past such as Milton Sterling's He Watcheth, which introduced young dancers such as the late Andrea Lloyd, Stacey-Lee Hassan, Rolande Pryce, and Kerry-Ann Henry to the ranks of the NDTC. This proves that the company is indeed in good hands and the future is secure.

This year, among the pieces which premièred, was Beauty Is... choreographed by Hope Boykin of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the jury is still out on this one which fits into that experimental dance sub genre, which might not sit well with local audiences. The work features a series of running and walking exits set to an interesting backing tack. Again young Michael Small is given his moment to show his skill and can take a bow for his work.

The Ailey connection is strong this season as Unscathed which is choreographed by Troy Powell, also of that renowned dance company, returned to the stage. This is one of the NDTC's strongest pieces as it forces the dancers to work. Drawing heavily from ballet and modern techniques and set to the music of Karl Jenkins, the stage is set for a great piece. It was a pleasure seeing this piece well executed by the company.

Choke, choreographed by Orville McFarlane was another strong works this season. This piece showcased a very strong corps de ballet which made for a great watch to the very end. The duet by Small and Henry was engaging.

Over the years an NDTC performance is always supplemented by the work of the singers. This year was no different. Acting musical director Dr Kathy Brown drew on the popularity of man-of-the-moment Buju Banton and crafted an interesting medley of his works. She arranged a suite comprising eight Buju tunes entitled Journey. Tracks including Lord Give I Strength, Untold Stories, Hills and Valleys, Not An Easy Road, Murderer, and Magic City were given a new sound thanks to the 15-member choir.

No NDTC performance is complete without Nettleford works. This year Simms buttressed the show with two works by the renowned dancer, choreographer and scholar. Blood Canticles from 1996 was given fresh legs as it told religious stories from African, Asian, European and Caribbean perspectives. The curtains then came down to the perennial favourite Kumina, choreographed 48 years ago which is based on traditional Jamaican rite.

Renewal and continuity is indeed at work for the NDTC and if this year's season is anything to go by, the company will be around for many years to come.

 


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