A time to dance

A time to dance

Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

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“Dance has the capacity to build Brand Jamaica in the same way that our music has.”

This is the thinking of Michael Holgate, the conceptualiser of the annual performance festival, Jamaica Dance Umbrella (JDU), which takes to the stage at Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts at The University of the West Indies from February 27 to March 1.

According to Holgate it is therefore imperative that the work be done to foster dialogue around dance so that this can be realised, and JDU, which is now in its 11th year, is working to not only provide a performance space for local companies, but also to start the conversations as to where the art form can be taken.

“The measure of a society is how it showcases and promotes the arts and culture. We are doing it with music, and we can see the results; it is time to take dance to this level. We need to find the space to make dance more professional.”

“Our real black gold is our creative industries. When you look at dancehall music, and how dancers all over the world are drawn to this art form, it is time we create that larger platform from where we can take advantage as it relates to dance.”

“People are coming here from all over the world to experience our culture and our dance forms, including dancehall, reggae and folk, as well as classical and modern forms which have the potential to contribute to the creative industries in a major way,” Holgate continued.

In keeping with this Holgate wants JDU to become a national and regional force in dance, with individuals and companies looking forward to sharing at a very high level.

“I really want the regional tone of the festival to be played up some more. In the past we have brought in companies from Barbados, Haiti, and Martinique. This year we will have two companies from the Cayman Islands, and one from Guadeloupe. But the dream is to see JDU as a real force for dance in-between Carifesta. It could easily become a two-week-long event, attracting visitors to the island and allowing for dancers and persons related to dance to exchange thoughts and ideas, while entertaining audiences,” Holgate noted.

This year JDU will for the first time honour a company rather than an individual. The festival will honour the 57-year-old National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC) for its contribution to the development of dance in Jamaica. This honour comes sharp on the heels of the passing of foundation member of the NDTC Barry Moncrieffe, who also served as artistic director.

As per usual, the festival will feature performances and workshops covering a number of areas of dance. These workshops commence on February 28 with Russian ballet conducted by Susan Urquhart and Revival with the Reverend Verman Thomas. On February 29 Dr L'Antoinette Stines will share the dance technique she created called L'Antech, artistic director of the NDTC Marlon Simms will share that company's style, while dancer and choreographer Oneil Pryce will conduct a workshop titled Beyond the Barre.

Among the companies set to perform each evening are Dance Theatre Xaymaca, L'Acadco, Movements Dance Theatre, The Company Dance Theatre, Ashe Performing Arts Ensemble, Stella Maris Dance Ensemble, and the NDTC. Barbadian dancer Stefanie Takei-Taylor will be one of the special guests soloists at the festival.

For younger dance enthusiasts, Holgate and his team have come up with Junior JDU, which will see performances from Wolmer's Dance Troupe, the Ashe Academy and, the Tony Wilson Dance School.

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