Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Total theatre for Easter - NDTC stages 35th morning celebration

Published:Tuesday | March 29, 2016 | 3:00 AMMichael Reckord
Grace McGhie Brown reads 'The Rope and the Cross' by Easton Lee.
The NDTC Dancers raise their hands to the heavens.
The NDTC Singers on stage at the Little Theatre on Easter morning.
The NDTC Dancers portray a joyous moment during the concert at the Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Avenue, St Andrew, on Sunday.
The dramatic end of 'Requiem', danced by Lauryn Rickman (left), Mark Phinn (second left), Paul Newman (second right) and Kerry-Ann Henry.
Marisa Benain (left) and Tamara Noel dance 'The Rope and the Cross' at the Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Avenue, on Sunday morning.
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The National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) mounted a 'total theatre' concert involving dance, music, drama and art at The Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Avenue, St Andrew, on Easter Morning.

Starting at 6:05 a.m., for just over an hour, the audience was treated to presentations by the company's dancers (clad in well-designed, often colourful costumes), singers and orchestra, as well as to emotional poetry readings.

Accompanied by pianist Stephen Shaw-Naar and trumpeters Everol Wray and Hopeton Williams, the singers, dressed in white, began the show with a front-of-curtain hymn, Ye Servants of God. As they segued into Immortal Invisible, the red curtains parted and the dancers (clad in black) made their first appearance.

With grace and style, they performed the Kevin Moore piece which is usually their first number. After an excerpt from Rex Nettleford's Ritual of the Sunrise (choreographed in 1998), came the first of two new dances. It was a solo work choreographed by former NDTC member and current dance professor in the United States, Chris Walker, danced by Marlon Simms. Also on stage was Ewan Simpson, the company's musical director and composer of the accompanying song.

VERY INTERESTING PIECE

Simpson led the singers in I Want Jesus to Walk with Me as a 'conversation' with Simms. The singing was easy and relaxed, while the dancing seemed anguished, suggesting with its jerks, twists and body contortions that the desire expressed in the song was not easily fulfilled Arguably the concert's most interesting work, it ended with the dancer lying on the floor, holding one hand up in supplication to the singer.

Following was the other new work, Kerry-Ann Henry's Meeting Point. Henry danced it, along with Paul Newman, to The Hanging Tree. Though the personas the dancers portrayed clearly supported each other, the relationship seemed nonetheless difficult (perhaps because of the external circumstances) and the piece ended with Newman staggering as he lifted Henry off the stage.

The emotional reading of Easton Lee's poem The Rope and the Cross by Fae Ellington and Grace McGhie followed. The two experienced actresses conveyed the pain and suffering that would surely have been in the relationship had Jesus' and Judas' mothers met to talk about their sons' deaths.

Not surprisingly, the reading led into the staging of an excerpt from Sheila Barnett's dance The Rope and the Cross. Tamara Noel portrayed Mary, Jesus' mother, while Marisa Benain danced Judith, Judas' mother. Though short, the excerpt conveyed the feelings of two mothers united in grief.

Easter Sunday is supposed to be a joyful time, but the show was well past the halfway mark before the mood was clearly happy. With Patrick Earle's The Call, danced to Carlene Davis' song Oh Give Thanks, costumes started becoming progressively more colourful and the music bouncier.

The happy song The Celebrant, composed by Simpson and sung by the NDTC Singers to bright, rhythm-filled drumming of the orchestra, helped lift the concert's mood to its usual joyous closing work, Nettleford's choreography to Noel Dexter's music for Psalm 150, O Praise Ye the Lord.

Loud applause indicated that the audience enjoyed the concert, the 35th in the Easter morning series, billed as a tribute to the late James Walker and George Carter.