Stella Maris Dance Ensemble A Well-rounded Experience
Their bodies were the perfect canvas for the movements conceptualised by some of Jamaica's most imaginative choreographers. The result, a dance show of par excellence. So it was on Saturday at The Little Theatre on Tom Redcam Avenue when the members of Stella Maris Dance Ensemble (SMDE), proudly celebrating their 23rd anniversary, giving a performance worthy to be cast in proverbial stone.
The dancers showed great control and clinically executed each dance step with precision and conviction. At the helm of the imaginative pinnacle were works by Rex Nettleford, Gavin Hart, Orville Hall, Patsy Ricketts and MoniKa Lawrence. And in seven dramatic dances, they guided the dance ensemble in capturing biographies, social commentaries and some rich history.
Retelling history was at the heart of Strange Waters. A 2016 premier dance choreographed by SMDE artistic director Lawrence and one of Jamaica's iconic dancers Patsy Ricketts, it was the curtain opener for the spellbinding programme.
"We of African descent were severed, scattered, suffered ... But we survived." This was the tagline of the dance and was clearly conveyed in three movements. The first commenced the narrative, a group of Africans in their natural habitat. However, their world of bliss was turned upside down when the Europeans, represented by a dancer in full white, forced them into 'chained-lines'. The choreographers' ingenuity became more pronounced in the auction scene, by having individual dancers moving to the downstage areas to show his or physical fitness.
In the 2010 choreographed, The Potter, Lawrence and Ricketts also showed stunning creativity. The dance is a tribute to the late NDTC artistic director, Rex Nettleford. The intriguing dance began with a potter unveiling his work of art. And so Gavin Hart, attired in gold looking costume, with great support from his fellow dancers, was convincing as he conveyed Nettleford the choreographer (the potter) at work. Dancer and choreographers recreated the familiar hand-clapping and his mastery of having dancers move with precision and uniformity.
Nettleford's 2007 Tribute to Cliff, was also on the card. Interestingly, it was placed before The Potter on the programme, perhaps as an introduction to the dance. Cliff was also portrayed by Hart, who along with Meisha Harris, Naomi Blackwood, Atira Robinson and Karen Seymour-Johnson, were stellar in the first of three movements. They moved to Clifff's unfamiliar but well-chosen song On My Life the dance also culminating with more songs by Cliff.
Lawrence's 2015 choreographed Interconnection, opened the second half of the programme, and it was also a 2015 stopper that brought the curtains down.
Titled Riddim and choreographed by Lawrence, Hall and Shelly Ann Callum, the dancers took the stage wearing appropriately designed costumes and demonstrated with high energy, the story of Jamaica's music and dance, from ska to dancehall.
But on a programme of high caliber of dances, the top spot definitely goes to Ricketts and Hall's 2016 premier choreography, Chances Are ... performed by Wendi Hoo Fatt and Roshaun Fender. The dance drama sees a juxtaposition of two dance styles, individually performed by the dancers.
The two ballet and modern contemporary dances were brought to life by a janitor and a dance student. The humour-filled dance sees the janitor switching the Enrique Iglesias song used by the student for her warm-up to a Sean Paul song.
Consequently, not only did the student warm up to the reggae beat, but also the janitor who carried her on his shoulder.
Hart, as the choreographer and dancer, for another 2016 premiered dance, Lifeline, must also be mentioned. By far, the performance was the most emotive piece and justly danced, with the character showing a strong Christian conviction.
Once again, SMDE's Saturday show was one of a high standard, in performance and timing of the programme and was well worth seeing.