THE quest to find and present that Jamaican, and by extension Caribbean, aesthetic in dance was at the centre of the discussions which followed the young choreographers showcase organised by the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) last Sunday.
A total of nine works-in-progress were premiered for an enthusiastic audience at the NDTC's studios in St Andrew.
Of the excerpts, only two pieces showcased an obvious Jamaican/Caribbean sensibility.
Fresh, a contemporary piece set the dancehall music and choreographed by Chelcia Creary, Sophia McKain and Jordinni Salmon, presented a local perspective, at least in the music chosen as accompaniment. The choreographers opted for Demarco's No Dirt and Jeans by Popcaan.
While Gallo Fino (Fine Rooster), the solo choreographed by Cuban Abeldo 'Toki' Gonzalez-Fonseca and performed by Kevin Moore, offered a peek into that culture.
The others were primarily modern dance pieces with universal themes set against North American and European soundtracks.
In response to concerns raised, former NDTC dancer Judith Wedderburn threw out a challenge to the young choreographers to find the Jamaican/Caribbean in the universal themes being explored in their work.
This was echoed by her fellow NDTC alum Barbara Requa and Cheryl Rhyman as well as educator Keith Noel and psychiatrist Professor Freddie Hickling.
Rhyman recalled the words of NDTC co-founder Rex Nettleford whom she said had always stressed that: "It is in our cultural specificity that we will have an impact internationally".
In response, Kerry-Ann Henry, ballet mistress at the NDTC and one of the choreographers, stressed that the works presented represented the experiences of the artistes.
"In my work, I incorporated folk turns and movements as well as the Gully Creeper. However, we as young artistes, are forging our own experiences and in doing so are redefining modes of expression in the true sense of renewal and continuity, which lies at the heart of the NDTC."
The excerpts presented showed great promise, with a tremendous scope for development into works which could make it into the rich NDTC repertoire.
Standouts included Kevin Moore's The Beloven. The tender duet between dancers Terry-Ann Dennison and Mark Phinn shows great promise. The dancers will, however, have to develop greater chemistry in order to make the characters believable. This will come with time and practice.
Out of the Shadows by Kerry-Ann Henry is another with potential. Henry's explosive performance style truly carries the piece and once this level of intensity can be sustained it should make for a good watch.
Ode to the Lost (dedicated to Eduardo Rivero-Walker) choreographed and performed by Marlon Simms and Neisha-Yen Jones was perhaps the crowd favourite. The duet which spoke to loss, was beautifully executed by the two experienced dancers.