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Audley Butler remembered as genuine

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

There were fond memories and a few tears as the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) paid tribute to Audley Butler, one of its founding members, at a ceremony at its studios at the Little Theatre in St Andrew on Sunday.

Butler was part of the troupe of 15 who started the NDTC along with its co-founders Rex Nettleford and Eddy Thomas in 1962. That founding group also included Bridget Spaulding, Barbara Requa, Bert Rose, as well as the late Monica McGowan, Sheila Barnett, Joyce Campbell and Yvonne DaCosta.

Artistic director of the NDTC Marlon Simms remembered Butler as genuine, real, open and human, noting that so he was on stage as in life.

“We thank him for his many gifts of hard work that broke ground for what has become a movement in shaping the arts and culture of this beloved nation. We are indebted to him for every bead of sweat that he shed along with those of the other 15 founding members. I speak of the same sweat that soaked into the floors of the dance studio where others such as myself have come to express ourselves and call home. Today as our feet sweep across the wooden floor drawing us closer to him and anchoring our past with the present, we move to the rhythm of his drum... our drum and we say to him as he has told us behind the curtains at the end of each show... dance on,” he said.

Surviving members Rose and Requa, although present, were overcome with emotion and had a combined tribute read on their behalf.

Musical tributes were performed by the NDTC Singers whose rendition of Handel's Hallelujah chorus from Messiah started off the evening. Tenor Carl Bliss delivered Eye on The Sparrow, while musical director emerita Marjorie Whylie paid her respects on piano with a selection of music from works in which Butler performed — Footnotes in Jazz, Dialogue For Three and Legend of Lover's Leap.

Former principal dancers Sandra Minott-Phillips and Melanie Graham both paid tribute in the spoken word.

It is the NDTC and therefore there must be dance. Ballet mistress Kerry-Ann Henry performed the gripping solo A Prayer, while the company performed the final tableau from Nettleford. iconic work The Crossing.

Butler, who is survived by his widow Sandra, children and grandchildren, died in New York on August 12.