Simms' debut

NDTC artistic director prepares his maiden season of dance

Sunday, June 17, 2018

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Six months into his tenure as artistic director of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, Marlon Simms faces his first major challenge — pulling together the company's annual season of dance set for July 20 to August 12 at Little Theatre in St Andrew.

This season, which is the company's 56th, will provide the real litmus test for Simms, who has come up the ranks of the NDTC and falls into the big shoes of his predecessors, co-founders of the company Professor Rex Nettleford and Eddy Thomas, and most recently Barry Moncrieffe. But Simms expressed confidence and is up for the challenge.

“It has been a learning experience for me since I took over as artistic director. I have really sought to energise my team... ensure that the members are highly motivated and have a desire to work with me. The NDTC has such a strong philosophy and ethos that my job is to build on the foundation that has been laid. There will be no change so far removed from the 55-year-old legacy of the company at the core, but I will have to infuse some of Marlon into the company by adding some of my own new, fresh ideas,” he told the Sunday Observer.

Like those who came before him, Simms is also opening the doors of NDTC to young dancers in the spirit of renewal and continuity — a mantra which the company has made it own. Nowhere will this injection of new blood be seen like during the upcoming season of dance.

“For our 56th season we have [a] great set of young dancers... about 90 per cent of the cast is made up of these new dancers who will perform alongside the faces you have come to associate with the NDTC in recent years. You see I am in transition, making my way offstage. So what we want to ensure is that we are passing on the traditions and mission of the company to this young group, just as it was shared with us by the founding members and that bridge generation.”

Simms described this year's repertoire as mixed and varied, representing a diverse array of dance styles and coming from an equally diverse set of choreographers.

“We are blending the iconic dance works with the new and modern. We will be remounting Tribute by the Cuban Eduardo Rivero — Walker's Tribute. This year we will be resting Kumina so our audiences will have the opportunity to see Gerrehbenta. We will also be bring back to the stage Shelly Ann Maxwell's Beneath My Skin as well as Urban Fissure by Chris Walker, two very popular modern works.”

“Two international choreographers in Terk Lewis and Addison Ector of the Complexions Contemporary Ballet in New York will provide us with pieces this year. Haitian choreographer Jeanguy Saintus will also create a new work for the company. This adds a further dimension to our presentations as we will have both local and international choreographers. This will be joined by Liane Williams, Neila Ebanks and Oniel Pryce, as well as myself in setting works on the company this season. There is also the NDTC Singers who are preparing a great suite of folk songs to present during season. This will be the first season for our Acting Musical Director Heston Boothe, who has been ably assisted by Conrad Hall.” Simms explained.

He is confident that the company's founding fathers would have been pleased with the offering set to take the stage in one month.

“There will be something for everyone. I'm confident that no patron will leave a performance not liking something. This year, due to the young demographic on stage, [one] might even see a shift in the demographic of our audience to represent a greater mix,” said Simms.

— Richard Johnson

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