Organisers pleased with Ja Dance Umbrella

By Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter

Sunday, March 11, 2018

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Conceptualiser of Jamaica Dance Umbrella, Michale Holgate is more than pleased with this year's staging of the annual dance festival, which culminated at Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts at The University of the West Indies, Mona last weekend.

The event, which is now in its 10th year, attracted the the country's major dance companies, including National Dance Theatre Company, The Company Dance Theatre, Movement Dance Theatre, L'Acadco and The Ashe Company, as well as individual dancers and emerging troupes. Barbados Dance Project and Ayikodans out of Haiti were also present.

“It was just awesome. Everybody who attended is talking about some aspect of the three days of performances and how good it was. Some are even calling this our best- ever staging,” Holgate told the Jamaica Observer.

He said that as time goes by, the organising team has become of adept at choosing the companies and works that the audience wants to see.

“No show is ever perfect. There are hitches and misses around every corner, but on any given night there is always something spectacular to round off the performances that makes it all worth it. For example, on Saturday Wrath of God by Movements did it... That is such a great work and it really has the desired impact when well executed. On Sunday, it was the Haitians. What they showcased was performance art as opposed to the performing arts. It was visually impactful, and the way they dance comes from such a differed aesthetic that you can't help but be drawn in. They were spectacular,” Holgate shared.

This year, the event honoured four stalwarts of local dance — Rex Nettleford, Barbara McDaniel, Jackie Guy and Joseph Robinson.

McDaniel was the sole recipient who was present to accept her recognition. Marlon Simms, the newly appointed artistic director of National Dance Theatre Company, accepted the citation on behalf of Nettleford who died in 2010. Robinson was also recognised posthumously, he died in 2005. His citation was received by his cousin Thelma Pratt and the current artistic director of Ashe, Conroy Wilson. Guy, who currently resides in the UK and was unable to be at the event, was represented by Cecile Johnson Semaj.

Holgate said it is the area of programming of the festival about which he is most pleased, and disappointed at the same time.

“We still have one or two things to do to ensure that each night is spectacular. The first thing is that we have to be a bit more discerning as it relates to curating and choosing the pieces. The truth is, we understand the constraints that dance companies in Jamaica operate within, so while we would want to be specific, there are factors we must bear in mind. This year we were very pleased with that performance by the Haitians, so this means we are on the right track,” said Holgate.

“For the future, I would love to be in a position where we pay the dancers, even if it is just for the transport, to start with.

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