Remembering Rex

Observer senior reporter

Thursday, February 15, 2018

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Scholar and dancer Rex Nettleford would have been 85 years old on Tuesday, and the foundation established in his honour celebrated the milestone with a fund-raising performance by two groups he was associated with, The National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) and the University Singers.

Held at the Little Theatre in St Andrew, the event also recognised the contribution of former NDTC artistic director Barry Moncrieffe, who demitted office a few weeks ago after 55 years of service to the dance troupe.

In paying tribute to Moncrieffe, executive director of the Rex Nettleford Foundation Elizabeth Buchanan-Hind recalled his work imparting knowledge, technical competence and experience to succeeding generations by teaching at the Jamaica School of Dance.

“As a major player in the NDTC's dedicated artistic management team, Barry Moncrieffe helped to maintain the cohesion of the dance company, enabling it to cross new artistic horizons without compromising its core virtues. Beyond his tremendous accomplishments as a dancer and director, his humility, his unassuming yet urbane manner and his dual dedication to preserving the folk and the traditional work of the company in tandem with expanding and modernising the repertoire, are all hallmarks of an extraordinary artistic career,” she said.

In his response, Moncrieffe was characteristically brief, extending thanks to his family as well as the NDTC, past and present, whom he stressed all played a part in his artistic career.

“I will be around; I am not going anywhere so I am here to support Marlon (Simms — the new artistic director). He has what it takes and I am sure he will do well,” said Moncrieffe.

As part of its tribute to Moncrieffe, the NDTC performed excerpts of works that he is most often associated with, including Children of Mosiah, Islands, and the iconic work choreographed by Nettleford, The Crossing.

The evening also saw the handing out of two scholarships funded by the foundation. The recipients were Cornwall College student Nicholas McIntyre and University of the West Indies graduate Cushema Weir.

The two performance troupes delighted the audience with a healthy slice of their respective repertoires, taking the audience on a journey from sorrow and loss to redemption and celebration.

The University Singers under the direction of Franklin Haliburton drew on pieces such as the sombre The Lord's Prayer and Ave Maria as well as the moving spiritual I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray. They upped the tempo with Ranice Barrett soloing on Ride On King Jesus; Seasons of Love from the musical Rent and a South African medley, before culminating with the Rocksteady Suite.

The NDTC drew on works such as the haunting Incantation by Haitian choreographer Jeanguy Saintus, an excerpt from Unscathed featuring Kerry-Ann Henry, Mark Phinn and Kemar Francis, and Nettleford's ode to mourning mothers Tintinnabulum before closing with the standard Kumina.

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