Arts & Culture

NDTC shares Emerald Edition

BY RICHARD JOHNSON

Sunday, December 10, 2017

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IN his wisdom, Rex Nettleford, co-founder of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC), introduced a cadre of singers and musicians to the company to act as fillers and add dimension to the the company's performances.

Over the years, the NDTC Singers have become part and parcel of any performance and in recent years, moving sharply away from being a side act and taking the spotlight on their own.

Just like the dance arm of the company, the Singers have stayed true to the renewal and continuity mantra and put serious succession planning in place. The retirement of founding musical director Marjorie Whylie a few seasons ago paved the way for Ewan Simpson, who is working to continue in her musical footsteps while creating a path for himself and the group.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the company and to commemorate this milestone The Singers have launches a CD, The Music of the NDTC — The Emerald Edition.

Last Wednesday, the Singers took to the stage at the Little Theatre in St Andrew and presented a programme which showcased their range and diversity.

There are some pieces of music which have become synonymous with the company. I Want To Know, the standard which forms the backdrop to their signature dance work Gerrehbenta, was among the pieces included in Traddin, a suite of traditional folk music presented by the Singers and went over well with the small, yet appreciative audience gathered inside the theatre.

The folk idiom continued in with Playtime, which comprised music from ring games. Jane and Louisa, Brown Girl in the Ring, Dip and Fall Back, Manuel Road and moonshine Darlin' were among the works which had many in the audience reminiscing on their childhood.

The Rocksteady genre of Jamaican music featured heavily in a suite titled Rock Sweet and Steady. The works of pioneering artiste Alton Ellis, Phyllis Dillon and John Holt featured heavily in this set as the Singers created a story of love — found, lost and earned again. The balance and tone of the 12 members of this group along with the orchestra made this segment quite a treat for the senses.

When one hears of music from the stage and screen , one generally never thinks of Jamaican film and theatre. But the NDTC Singers proved that there is a local repertoire of which we can be proud. The Pantomime standards Evening Time, Money Is a Funny Ting, One Ting Lead To Another and One Han' Caan Clap, as well as gems from The Harder They Come — Sitting in Limbo, Sitting In Limbo and the title track. Dancehall Queen from the film of the same name was also presented in this suite.

The NDTC is primarily a dance company and therefore that art form is never far away.

For Wednesday's presentation, the company chose three works from their repertoire, utilising the voices of the Singers for accompaniment. Haven, choreographed by Kerry-Ann Henry, which features a graceful trio of dancers was given another dimension with the live rendition of The Prayer. Dancer Javal Lewis' expressive extremities in Walk With Me spoke volumes as the Singers delivered My Spirit Yearns and I Want Jesus To Walk With Me.

The evening closed with the music of Jamaican singer Beres Hammond, set against Beres on Love, the work choreographed by the associate artistic director of the company Marlon Simms.

The aggregation of musicians who accompanied the singers must also be commended for their work as they too offered gems during the evening's presentation.

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