Rex remembered in fine style
The National Dance Theatre Company dancers pay homage to the towering, mythical "Horsehead" in the popular Rex Nettleford 1983 choreographed piece Gerrehbenta. The occasion was the Rex Nettleford Foundation's celebration of the life and legacy of the late Professor Rex Nettleford at the Little Theatre in Kingston on February 3, 2023.

A sizeable crowd gathered at the Little Theatre in Kingston for Remembering Rex, a celebration of the life and legacy of Professor Rex Nettleford, on Wednesday, February 8.

And the audience, no doubt, left satisfied.

Elizabeth Buchanan Hind, executive director of the Rex Nettleford Foundation, was pleased with how the evening unfolded.

"It is the mission of the foundation to celebrate and recognise the enormous contribution of Professor the Honourable Rex Nettleford in the area of arts and culture and the legacy that he has behind," Buchanan Hind told the Jamaica Observer.

The evening opened with a dance number Drumscore, a Nettleford work from 1979 delivered by the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) with contrasting rhythms and vibrant melodies, arranged by musician extraordinaire Marjorie Whylie.

The University Singers, under the direction of Franklin Haliburton, then entered with Lift Every Voice and Sing, popularly regarded as the African American National Anthem. That was followed by Doluri, composed by Aleksi Machivariani of the Georgian Republic.

The programme then journeyed to late 19th century Italy with Luigi Denza's joyous piece, Funiculi Funicula.

Marlon Simms' Cascade saw a shift in tempo from the opener but no loss of intensity as the company presented themes of loss, and of making one's way, against the musical backdrop of Experience and Clockwork from Ludovico Einaudi and Phillip Klein, respectively.

The 'Singers' returned with a delightful and comedic medley of Jamaican folk songs, several of which were centred around the love of food. In particular, Massa Sammy Oh in which the title character is subject to the clever and hilarious accusation of having eaten the prized meal of dumplings and yam.

Another dance highlight was the all-female presentation of Unbroken, choreographed by Renee McDonald. Through a seamless fusion of spoken verse (including presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman's We Rise) and a variety of musical pieces, the company's younger women delivered an irrefutable argument, through dance, for women's empowerment.

In keeping with Reggae Month, Bob Marley's enduring Rastaman Chant — arranged for the purpose by Ewan Simpson and O'Neal Mundle — marked the final appearance of the University Singers, which in turn set up the closing performance of the night, Nettleford's Gerrehbenta with its riveting combination of vibrant sensuality and more elegant turns and saunters, backed by the towering mythical Horse Head.

The occasion saw Buchanan Hind, accompanied by NDTC Director Milton Samuda, making a special presentation to renowned classical soprano stalwart Carole Reid.

Scholarship presentations were also made to Cornwall College alumnus and actuarial science major at The University of the West Indies Mark Brown, and Jorane Byrd, resident of the UWI's Rex Nettleford Hall.

Nettleford, a former vice-chancellor emeritus of the University of The West Indies (UWI), is a co-founder of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica. In 1975, he was recognised for his cultural and scholarly achievements by the Jamaican Government with an Order of Merit.

Nettleford died on February 2, 2010. He was 76.

A scene from Drumscore at the Rex Nettleford Foundation's celebration of the life and legacy of Professor Rex Nettleford at the Little Theatre in Kingston on Wednesday, February 3, 2023. The piece was choreographed by Nettleford in 1979, with Caribbean traditional rhythms and melodies arranged by Marjorie Whylie and the voices of the National Dance Theatre Company singers.
Soprano Carole Reid (right) proudly poses with her Rex Nettleford Award at the Remembering Rex benefit performance held at the Little Theatre in Kingston on Wednesday, February 8, while Elizabeth Buchanan Hind, executive director of the Rex Nettleford Foundation, and Milton Samuda, chairman of the National Dance Theatre Company look on.

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