LIKE Jamaica, the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary and, on Saturday night, opened its 2012 season with a presentation which showed just why the company has survived the past half-century.
Of the five works remounted for the gala, the highlight was the curtain-raiser, Rex Nettleford’s epic tale of the African coming to the Americas —The Crossing.
NDTC upped the ante with this popular work by drawing on the immense talents of former principal dancer Melanie Graham to ‘guest’ in this work first staged in 1978.
Her performance drew audible gasps, and eventually cheers and applause as Graham, though obviously nervous for her opening steps, melted into her role and soon was slithering, leaping and extending, belying her years of absence from the stage.
Her duet with Kevin Moore was especially poignant and by the final tableau, she had once again become the Melanie Graham who had taken centrestage for the NDTC for so many years.
Former NDTC dancer Cheryl Rhyman would later remark, “the first dance was a bellyful, everything after that was a bellyful”.
The menu after that satisfying appetiser featured the powerful Afro-Cuban work Sulkari, choreographed by Eduardo Riviero Walker.
The physical, sexual and spiritual aspects of Afro-Cuban culture were beautifully brought to the fore by an impressive sextet of NDTC’s dancers. Credit must also go to the NDTC singers particularly Helen Christian whose vocals were a perfect fit for the haunting, yet infectious Yorubainspired supporting music.
The chemistry between the NDTC’s ballet mistress Kerry-Ann Henry and dance captain Marlon Simms is undeniable. And, on Saturday night this was reinforced with ...Minutes and seconds.
The voice of Bob Marley would echo a change in the genre. Chris Walker’s gritty Urban Fissure would take to the stage with its bold, in-your-face ‘swagger’ certainly jolted the sensibilities of the audience.
The spirit of co-founder Rex Nettleford was certainly aroused when Marlon Simms in the role of the king inched and shuffled across the stage in Kumina, complete with libation. This celebrated work, with its colour, sharp movements and the familiar music, lit up the theatre and brought the curtains down.