Memorable Morning of Movement and Music

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

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It was a full house that witnessed the 38th annual Morning of Movement and Music, staged by the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), at Little Theatre in St Andrew on Easter Monday.

The venue was buzzing from as early as 5:30 am as patrons ensured a good seat in anticipation of the prompt 6:00 am start to the traditional sunrise performance.

The performers did not disappoint.

In keeping with the theme of death, burial and resurrection, dancers and singers of the NDTC plotted their pieces and, as a result, the performances moved from solemn to triumphant.

The company's ballet mistress, Kerry-Ann Henry, kicked things off with her take on the solo, Cry of the Spirit, choreographed by Gene Carson. This work has previously been performed by the likes of Alicia Glasgow Gentles and Neisha-Yen Jones.

Henry called on her intense technical abilities to bring this work to life. She created a strong, emotional connection that resonated with the audience.

Henry was the workhorse of the morning, leading the company in Yallahs, Blood Canticles, Homeland and the denouement, Psalm 150.

Standouts were next-generation dancers Javal Lewis and Ashley Bromfield in Clive Thompson's Vision. This touching and tender duet, set to Sir Willard White's rendition of Deep River and Aaron Neville's Ave Maria, showcased the immense talents of these young dancers who are stepping into the formidable shoes of celebrated pairs, including Carole Orane and Arsenio Andrade, Marlon Simms and Stefanie Thomas, and Kerry-Ann Henry and Mark Phinn.

The solid ballet substrate inherent in this work was just right for Lewis and Bromfield, who are classically trained. They delivered on the strength, agility, grace and control which the work demands, and with time one sees them growing stronger.

Vision was dedicated to former NDTC dancer Christopher Morrison, who died in January.

Singers of the NDTC, under the direction of acting musical director Dr Kathy Brown, made sure the audience's appetites were satisfied.

The ensemble's 13 voices felt like more as they opened with Handel's famed Hallelujah from Messiah. Soprano Kaydene Gordon did a fair job with We Shall Behold Him, but the early morning performance perhaps did not allow her enough warm-up time, as she shied from her upper register for the most part. Veteran Faith Livingstone was joined by contralto Kimone Johnson for a moving rendition of Pie Jesu from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem.

It was the male singers however, who brought life to proceedings. The solo work by tenors Tah-je Thompson, Joshua Page and Shane Wright earned approval of the audience. Thompson in Done Made My Vow, Page in the reggae-inspired You Made A Way and Wright with Bless the Lord, made their presence felt.

Morning of Movement and Music continues to be a calendar event and, judging by the enthusiastic audience, it does not seem this will change in the immediate future.

Of note were fresh faces of the NDTC. Of the dancers there were only four seasoned campaigners, in Kerry-Ann Henry, Marisa Benain, Mark Phinn and Marlon Simms. The others represented a younger generation and gives credence to the troupe's mantra of 'Renewal and Continuity'.


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