Little-White gives the gift of dance

Monday, December 16, 2013    

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THE National Library of Jamaica is set to receive a donation of performance footage of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) spanning more than two decades.

This gift will be coming from local filmmaker and producer Lennie Little-White, who made the announcement at the premiere of Long Live The King held at the Carib in Cross Roads, St Andrew, on Sunday. The film — the final part of a trilogy — looks at the life and work of cultural figure, academic, dancer and choreographer, Professor Rex Nettleford.

Nettleford died on February 2, 2010 in the United States after suffering a heart attack.

Little-White said his production company, Mediamix Limited, was invited by Nettleford to film his seasons of dance for about 20 years.

"I would dare to say we have the largest catalogue of footage of the NDTC's performances, so I would like to present this 20 years of dance as a gift to the nation... We must preserve this part of our cultural history for posterity — for generations to come."

He added he was doing this to ensure the work of Nettleford, as it relates to dance, became more accessible to the general public rather than locked away.

The first of the three docu-films, Requiem, which was also shown on Sunday, was released within days of Nettleford's passing back in 2010. The second instalment, Renaissance Man, also directed by Little-White for the Rex Nettleford Foundation, was released earlier this year.

"While Renaissance Man focused on Nettleford's academic pursuits, we felt that his personal side was just as important which is why we went ahead with it... it is not a replacement for the other works but rather an extension to the preceeding two films.

Long Live the King, which takes its name from one of Nettleford's early works created for the NDTC, offered a snapshot of his personal side. It was based on a treatment approved by Nettleford.

The work traces his humble beginnings in Trelawny to his years at Cornwall College in Montego Bay.

Little-White has the benefit of footage of Nettleford, some dating back to the 1960s and uses it to great effect as the viewer is left to hear the subject in his own words.

The NDTC's work is interspersed throughout the 55-minute-long production which also draws on the recollections of close friends and associates of the late Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies. These include Dr Cezley Sampson, Dr Veronica Saulter and Nettleford's personal assistant for over 30 years Eula Morgan.

Following the screening, Marlon Simms and Kerry-Ann Henry of the NDTC commented on the work.

"I was happy to hear his voice again," noted Simms. "It took me back in time and that was quite emotional," he continued. "But showing the other side of Prof made it special."

Henry noted that the film should serve as inspiration.

"It offers continuity and hope for persons facing challenges similar to what Prof went through. It is therefore important to tell these stories to reassure especially the young among us."

Little-White is seeking sponsorship to take Long Live The King into schools and libraries islandwide.





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