Bert Rose's last dance
Dance luminary remembered for contribution to the art formSunday, June 13, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
“Imagine with me a sequence of movements strung together so effortlessly that a narrative is experienced. Then imagine a single piece of fabric transforming a stage into a magical performance labyrinth. Now breathe in a rehearsal room that after a single session a masterpiece is created. This is what it was like to have lived alongside the brilliance of Bert Rose.”
That opening statement from the tribute paid to the late dancer, choreographer, set and production designer by Marlon Simms, the current artistic director of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC), was the essence of the remembrances of the man and his contribution to the Jamaican creative landscape at his thanksgiving service held at the St George's Anglican Church in downtown Kingston on Friday.
Speaker after speaker recalled his creative genius, compelling personality traits and his love for his beloved NDTC, of which he was one of the founding members nearly 60 years ago with Professor Rex Nettleford, Eddy Thomas, as well as Joyce Campbell, Sheila Barnett, Barbara Requa, and Monica McGowan, among others.
“He loved the NDTC and worked assiduously to ensure that the treasure that is the NDTC will live on for generations. Our gratitude for all that he has done is to ensure that the flame of the NDTC is kept burning bright. Mr Rose, Uncle Bertie, was indeed a national treasure, a man of many gifts. He was truly a creative luminary and we thank him for all he has done for Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world,” Simms continued.
Four members of the NDTC's Bridge Generation, dancers who joined the company in the 1970s, Karyn Johnson, Dr MoniKa Lawrence, Sandra Minott Phillips and Denise Francis Robinson also eulogised Rose who died on April 1 at age 81. They too recalled his love for the company.
“Bertie's greatest love was the NDTC. It was his life. He was a captivating performer. He was small in stature, but he was brighter than a stadium bulb. One cannot forget his performances in Dialogue for Three, Homage, The King Must Die and those grand jetÚs in the opening sequence of Celebrations. He was also a fine choreographer. Works such as Thursday's Child, Moods, Switch, Edna M and Steal Away will shine on forever in the NDTC pantheon,” the quartet shared.
The tributes at Friday's service were both pre-recorded and live in order to limit numbers in keeping with COVID-19 protocols. Among the other pre-recorded tributes were performances of Rose's pieces Moods, Steal Away and an excerpt from Edna M. The University Singers, Carl Bliss and Nexus Performing Arts Company also shared their tributes in song. There were also tributes from fellow NDTC founding member Barbara Requa and her daughter Danielle, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission.
Rose's cousin Garth Sanguinetti celebrated his life and described him as “a dynamic man who was full of wit, meticulous, with an extraordinary talent and artistic flair. Compassionate indeed, however with a hidden 'viperial' sting if put to the test”.
His friend Shelley Glaze had those gathered smiling as she recalled some of his humorous moments as well as his generosity.
“Bertie lived a life filled with passion and imagination. Both of these qualities fuelled his artistic and creative genius which could be seen in his dance, choreography and the staging of so many breath-taking events. The last year of Bertie's life was a challenging one as a stroke left some lingering effects and he also lost some dear friends including Barry Moncrieffe. It was difficult for him to come to terms with ageing and the loss of some independence. But despite some trying times by any standard Bertie's life was extraordinary and spectacular,” Glaze said.
In addition to his work with the NDTC, Rose along with Requa and Barnett founded the Jamaica School of Dance. For his contribution to dance, Rose was recognised with the Order of Distinction in the rank of officer from the Government and people of Jamaica, and the silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica.