Preparations are on in earnest for the 60th anniversary season of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC).
The season — which will run over four weekends (Friday to Sunday) from July 22 to August 14 — will showcase works from the group’s repertoire over the past six decades as well as new works specially choreographed for the commemorative year.
Artistic director Marlon Simms told the Jamaica Observer that patrons will be excited by the old favourites which have been revived for this signal anniversary, as well as new works which represent the growth and continuity of the company, co-founded by Rex Nettleford and Eddy Thomas in 1962, the year Jamaica gained independence from Great Britain.
“The preparations and rehearsals are intense at this time. Having been off the stage at this level for the past two years due to the pandemic means that there is a level of relaxation among the members of the company, which is understandable. So I have to meet them where they are, and encourage them to get them to desired levels, because the truth is there has been no need to demand this level of rigour on their bodies over the past two years. We have to awaken the spirit and get them to that level,” Simms shared.
The NDTC’s Diamond Season will see a return of Nettleford’s Drumscore, choreographed in 1979, as well as well as by dancers Tamara Noel and Kevin Moore, who have not performed with the company for some time.
“With it being Jamaica 60 as well, we wanted to focus on the traditional folk forms, which form a well spring of our movement vocabulary. We are also bringing back Rough Drafts by Chris Walker. This piece looks at our movement patterns and dance vocabulary so it was important in this year. It has also been well received over the years, and considering that we are hitting the road, it is important to have this work in our repertoire,” Simms said.
He spoke about other works being presented this season.
“We are bringing back David Brown’s Labess. Cascade, a work I choreographed and was only presented for one night only last year, makes its return. We will be closing with Gerrehbenta this year. For a number of years we have been doing Kumina, so we’ve decided to change. There are a number of solos: Thankful by Paul Newman; I will be on stage on the bench [performing] in Sweet in the Morning; Mark Phinn will be performing Don’t Leave Me; the audience wants to see Kerry Ann Henry and she will be doing My Prayer. There will also be He Watcheth by Milton Sterling. Treadmill by Barbara Requa... one of our founding members, returns this season, as well as Choke, a reflection on COVID-19 times. Choreographer Renee McDonald is also working on a piece dedicated to women and empowerment.”
Simms disclosed that the Nettleford-choreographed Court of Jah was one piece he wanted to bring back for this season but it did not make the cut. However, there was a compromise.
“The backdrop for Court of Jah was created by artist Colin Garland. We were not able to mount the dance, but we are using this backdrop during a suite of songs from the catalogue of Rita Marley which will be performed by the NDTC Singers. This year Mrs Marley is celebrating her 75th birthday and her foundation commissioned this suite as part of their celebrations. So we didn’t get Court of Jah, which incidentally was in tribute to Bob Marley, but we are using the backdrop as part of the tribute to Rita Marley,” he said.