NDTC's virtual season
Weekend of online performances pay tribute to founding choreographersSunday, July 18, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
The work of the early members and choreographers of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC) forms the programme of the first weekend of the company's 59th season of dance – the virtual edition – which kicked off on Friday.
According to Marlon Simms, artistic director of the NDTC, the presentations for the next four weekends will be thematic and draw on the work of choreographers from the genesis of the company to present day. He noted that the season will feature recorded performances from the company's archives as well as new recordings. Friday's opening presentation featured Edna M, choreographed by Bert Rose. Yesterday's performance featured two works Treadmill by Barbara Requa, with former ballet mistress Arlene Richards in the lead. Sheila Barnett's One Time, performed by Alaine Grant and Christopher Morrison, will also be in the spotlight. Rex Nettleford's Children of Mosiah, with former Artistic Director Barry Moncrieffe, forms today's package. The performances are aired on the NDTC's YouTube channel.
“There is something for everyone – all generations. So, if you loved the the faces from the 60s, 70s, 80s to the present generation there will be something for you.This weekend we start with our founding choreographers. On Fridays and Saturdays the performances will be aired at 8:00 pm and on Sunday patrons can tune in at 5:00pm.”
Friday's performance of Edna M, Bert Rose's ode to Edna Manley, the mother of the modern Jamaican fine art movement, and wife of national hero Norman Manley, was performed by former principal dancer Melanie Graham, on whom the work was set, and the Cuban Arsenio Andrade Calderon.
The presentation opened with a 1987 interview with Rose done by the Jamaica Information Service. In this feature Rose explained the story behind the ballet and the fact that he had discussions with Manley about the work. She never got the opportunity to see the work and despite a hurried attempt to perform the final pas de deux at her funeral in 1987, this plan was aborted by the organisers. The interview was interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsal of the work with Graham and Tony Wilson, the original duo who performed the main characters.
Simms was not ready to release the full slate of works, which will form this year's virtual season, noting that the programme for each weekend will be released on a timely basis. He, however, obliged the Jamaica Observer and shared that time-honoured favourite Gerrehbenta by Nettleford; Kevin Moore's Homage a d'hombala, Renee McDonald's Ash and Orville McFarlane's Choke will make the cut.
“ Choke will be one of the new recordings this season. The thing is, when the work was first choreographed, he had the dancers wearing masks. I was not really sure how the masks would work as the entire dance featured gestures with the dancers moving the masks back and forth. So, I told him I didn't think it would work. So, when we first mounted the piece we performed without the masks. Lo and behold we are now in a 'mask-querade' globally, so we have gone back to where we started and staged it wearing the masks,” Simms noted.
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