Arts & Culture



Sunday, December 03, 2017

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The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk continues its daily Year In Review of people who made an impact during the year.

Last year, the Jamaica Observer named choreographer Renee McDonald as one to watch for 2017, and the young Jamaican took this to heart and ran with the challenge.

In a previous interview she recalled the advice given to her by veteran Jamaican dancer and choreographer Dr L'Antoinette Stines, the artistic director of L'ACADCO, which became a signature moment in her career.

“She told me that choreography was a gift from God that I was simply born with. It was definitely a turning point for me,” she said.

McDonald was hard to miss on the local dance scene, living up to her reputation as the go-to choreographer for most of the major dance companies here in Jamaica. If you missed her work during one recital, fear not, for she was sure to pop up at the other —all this while focussing on her studies at the Norman Manley Law School at The University of the West Indies.

Among her works this year were: Surge for The Company Dance Theatre; In Our Lane (Tribute to Jamaican Athletes); and Tandem for the Campion Dance Society; Solitude for Wolmer's Dance Troupe; Until November Ends — Dance Theatre Xaymaca; and Surrounded by Solitude for the Emma Willard School in New York.

But by summer came the big news.

McDonald had been called by no less than the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre to choreograph for its adjunct company Ailey II.

Her introduction to Ailey II came about in 2014 when she met the company's Artistic Director Troy Powell. After watching a performance of her work Divulgence, Powell had nothing but encouragement for the young Jamaican. A phone call earlier this year cemented that contact and she was asked to create a work for the American company. In three weeks McDonald created Breaking Point, a 21-minute-long modern dance work featuring 12 dancers.

“Working with a world-class international company like Ailey II was a marvelous experience. Yes, the minds were able to grasp and remember loads of vocabulary in no time and, yes, their bodies consistently executed my style with great competence and grace, but what I was so impressed with was the culture of the company. Everybody had so much respect for each other, me, the space, and the directors, that everyone involved was always on time, ready to work, with no complaints. I just remember constantly being impressed,” she recalled.

“I still cannot believe my work was on the same programme as Alvin Ailey's masterpiece, Revelations… such an honour.”

— Richard Johnson

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