A Dance to Eddy

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 13, 2014    

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THE National Dance Theatre Company's (NDTC) annual Easter Sunday Morning of Movement and Music will be dedicated to the life of co-founder Eddy Thomas.

Thomas, 82, died at his Montego Bay home last Thursday.

The April 20 event will see the dance company offering new works as well as staging remounts from their extensive repertoire, as well as music from the NDTC singers.

Among the dance works to be performed in tribute to Thomas are: He Watcheth, choreographed by Milton Sterling Clive; Of Prohecy and Song and The Question, by Clive Thompson; and Keita Marie Chamberlan's Unconditional Love.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer, Barry Moncrieffe, NDTC artistic director, said in addition to this performance, the company is organising another event in tribute to their co-founder. A date, however, has not been decided on.

In reflecting on Thomas' life, Moncrieffe, as well as two of the founding members of the NDTC, Bert Rose and Barbara Requa, were struck by the immense talents their friend and fellow dancer possessed.

"He was such a talent. Everything from choreography to set and costume design. He was also an accomplished musician. All these came together in his dances," said Moncrieffe, who started his dance career with the Eddy Thomas Dance Workshop prior to joining the NDTC.

Requa, who joined the Ivy Baxter School of Dance at the same time as Thomas, said that his talents were evident in the theatrical nature of his choreography.

"I never met any one person with so many skills. Works such as Plantation Revelry, Legend of Lover's Leap and Games at Arms were some of the most interesting works by Eddy," she said.

For Rose, Thomas's legacy is his tireless work in building a Jamaican dance vocabulary.

"We were trying to develop a form of truly Jamaican style using our folk forms and stories and you see it in his works. He took the Martha Graham style and fused it with our indigenous folk forms as a result all the early works were narratives. I learned so much from him, he was such a force and a lot of what I do today is influenced by Eddy Thomas."

However, the relationship between Thomas and the NDTC did not last for very long.

Founded with Rex Nettleford in 1962, within the first decade Thomas severed ties with the company, over what seems unclear to the early members.

"Nobody ever knew what was the real reason behind Eddy leaving the company. I would ask Rex and he could never give an answer," says Rose.

"But there was never any animosity. We always kept him updated on what the NDTC was doing. He got a programme every year and he is always mentioned as a co-founder."

Thomas would become reclusive which Requa notes may be a function of his immense talent.

"I believe the fact that he was multi-talented affected him in some way. I tried on many occassions to reach out to him, but there is only so much one can do," she reflects.

However, before removing himself from the stage, his work and influence would see the birth of another dance company.

Four dancers from the Eddy Thomas Dance Workshop would go on to form Movements Dance Company.

Artistic Director of Movements, Monica Campbell-McFarlane remembered Thomas a real pioneer of Jamaican modern contemporary dance.

"He was such an inspiration who touched the lives of several generations. His work as a tutor to the four founding members of Movements helped us to share his qualities with a whole generation of dancers over three decades."

Campbell-McFarlane explained that the qualities of discipline, getting the form, line and movement right have served the company well over the years.

"His devotion to excellence and dedication will always remain with me," she shares.





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