NDTC keeping Nettleford’s Legacy alive with millennials
Artistic director of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), Marlon Simms, wants people to know that Professor Rex Nettleford’s legacy lives on.
“It is alive, and we have a new generation of dancers and persons who are still willing to give to culture and art and the development of the nation. It is so good that nine years after Prof passed, we are still pushing and working hard,” Simms told The Gleaner recently at the 38th staging of Morning of Movement and Music’.
“Millennials are committed to this process. Professor Nettleford has started something that is really good, and we intend to continue and to pass it on to the next generation,” he continued.
He explained that to sustain this continuity, the company has resorted to the NDTC’s vigorous training system, “which is, we must draw on modern dances, Caribbean and Jamaican folk forms, [an] understanding and appreciation of the power and influence of dance theatre, and recognise that dance is not only about movement; dance is an art form, it is an artistry. It takes 10 years to make artistry, to go through training and the learning process to get to the place where you can actually communicate an idea, a feeling, an emotion that is not something mechanical”.
As part of their training, the dancers learn and ballet, modern and folk dance. They are also taken on site visits (the last visit was to a revival church in St Thomas). They also have interactive sessions with former NDTC members, such as Marjorie Whylie. “We are looking at the value of what we have in terms of our repertoire. The best way to sustain it is to look at how it was done originally,” said Simms.
He said that the information is best passed on this way. “Because if we ever lose what was passed down, then the NDTC will never be the NDTC. So we work hard to maintain that connection.”
Other plans, he said, are maintaining the research and the exposure, as well as having a strong technical training system. Self-critique and being open to criticism are also on the cards. NDTC’s present pool of talent includes students attending the School of Dance at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and dancers recruited from their in-house training programme and open calls/auditions. NDTC members are also cultural agents who identify and refer talents they have encountered.
Katherine Lee is one of the newest members of the NDTC. She made her debut at Morning of Movement and Music. “I feel honoured to be part of NDTC,” she told The Gleaner. She had only done ballet. “But it’s been a great experience. I have been exposed to so many different styles and personalities,” she said. She has also learned to manage her time better as she is also preparing to sit her CSEC examinations later this month.