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Rex remembered in true style

Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The spirit of noted cultural figure and scholar professor Rex Nettleford reigned supreme at Remembering Rex, the fundraiser staged by the foundation established in his honour and held at the Little Theatre in St Andrew last Tuesday.

Since his death, the foundation has been providing scholarships for one student at the University of the West Indies' Rex Nettleford Hall, as well as a graduate of Cornwall College (Nettleford's alma mater) who is also pursuing tertiary education. This year's recipients are Britney Miller and Reynaldo Ramsey.

An event remembering Nettleford could not be without the performing arts The National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), which he co founded with Eddy Thomas in 1962, presented four works from its repertoire.

The evening opened with the final set from Nettleford's iconic dance work, The Crossing. For this event, the organiser injected live music. Shana-Lee Brown of the University Singers delivered a stirring rendition of Many Rains Ago originally recorded by Letta Mbulu for the soundtrack of the television miniseries Roots. Ballet mistress at the NDTC Kerry-Ann Henry gave another of her signature performances with A Prayer choreographed 17 years ago by the Cuban Arsenio Andrade Calderon.

The sounds of Marley would echo through the theatre as the dance company pulled the gritty modern work Urban Fissure from its trove. The evening would close with another Nettleford work. The company chose Gerrehbenta — an ode to the spirits which draws on two traditional dances , Gerreh from Hanover and Dinky mini.

This year marked the eighth staging of the event and the organisers added a special guest performer to the usual roster of acts.

The Stella Maris Dance Ensemble gave a cameo performing The Potter, a work dedicated to Nettleford and choreographed by its artistic director Dr MoniKa Lawrence and Patsy Ricketts, who are both former dancers with the NDTC. This work continues to please audiences especially at the moment when the late professor's image is projected as a backdrop.

The University Singers is another cultural institution with which Nettleford was closely associated. He served as advisor and choreographer for the renowned choir over the year.

The range of the 'Singers' was on full show at Remembering Rex as the group moved seamlessly from classical with Franklin Halliburton's Alleluia! Laudes Creaturarium, to spirituals My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord and Good News. Their folk suite showcased even more of their diversity. Wash Day, The River Ben Come Dung, Elena, Roas' Breadfruit, Yellow Yam and Charley Marley formed this set.

In Remembering Rex, the performances showcased the fact that his work in unearthing, preserving and showcasing the arts in Jamaica is not in danger of being forgotten.