Morning of Movement and Music
Chester Francis-Jackson, Contributor
For many, the passing of the late intellectual and cultural giant, Professor Rex Nettleford, represented a challenge of immense proportions. They had come to consider the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) to mean the Nettleford Dance Theatre Company, and feared the beloved institution would not survive the passing of its principal founder, choreographer and artistic director, its backbone and anchor.
Those who knew the ways of the professor's mind and the internal workings of the NDTC, however, held no such trepidation, as they bore daily witness to the fact that he was committed to the survival of the NDTC as a primary institution of dance and culture.
With his passing came the real test, albeit rather early, of the ability of his beloved NDTC not only to survive post-Nettleford, but also to thrive!
The annual Easter Sunday morning offering was always going to be a test of the NDTC post-Nettleford. Well, my dears, if anyone thought the NDTC would have faltered at the first hurdle, then they pretty much have never fully understood or grasped the fact that the late Professor Nettleford not only empowered and inspired the NDTC as a company, but that he also gave it the very essence of his being and soul - the gift of grit, talent and the spirit of perseverance, in spite of the odds.
Dedicated to prof
Last Sunday's Morning of Movement and Music, under the baton of Barry Moncrieffe, Musical Director Marjorie Whylie and her Assistant Musical Director Albertina Jefferson, was dedicated to the life, memory and artistic contribution of its founding father. It was an experience for the soul and nothing but! The absence of the professor in body did not mean he was not present in spirit!
From the opening song, Alleluia from Litany (music) by Marjorie Whylie, the stage was set for the unveiling of a masterpiece. My dears, the NDTC singers and musicians came, saw and, for my word, how they conquered!
With songs such as The Joyful Eastertide, A Mass for Peace, Psalm 23, Our Father, Soloist Howard Cooper's rendition of Lord Look at Me, and soloist Carl Bliss' rendition of O Sinnerman, plus a chorus of traditional ancestral medley; and the penultimate Lord's Prayer and the curtain-ending Psalm 150, the NDTC singers and musicians were awesome, inspiringly so!
And then there were the excerpts from Professor Nettleford's legacy of exquisite dance and prose that made for a glorious feast of movement!
Dears, from Ritual of the Sunrise, Misa Criolla, Tintinabulum, Islands, Blood Canticles, Hush - The Crossing, Cave's End, Goodbye Motherland - The Crossing, Interconnexion and the finale Psalm 150, it was a morning rich beyond belief in the history of not just Professor Nettleford and the NDTC's journey, but the historical chronicling of international events, time and places, that speaks to the connectivity of the diaspora. The contextual theme and underpinning fact, that while we might have all arrived on different ships, now we are all on the same boat, and it's our creativity and mastery of our new surroundings that will see us through!
Dears, the Little Theatre was packed to capacity, and then some. By the time the curtain fell there was hardly a set of eyes in the house that were not moistened by the experience.
The many notables spotted in attendance included: Professor Sir Roy Augier; former Senate President Syringa Marshall-Burnett; Justice Hillary Phillips; her sibling Ambassador Eleanor Felix; Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Professor E. Nigel Harris; Professor Barry Chevannes; Professor Dr Carolyn Cooper; Dr Freddie and Hillary Hickling; Dr Hazel Bennett and Dr Winston Davidson.
Also out were Dr Carol Ball; the Rev Dr Ralph Hoyte; the celebrated Jean Small; Dr Wendel Abel; Veronica Saulter; the esteemed Winston Stona; the charmingly lovely Sandra Shirley; Lennie Little-White and companion Cheryl Ryman; Patrick Bailey; the lovely Dian Watson; Karin Cooper; Jack and June Hines; Nancy McLean; Brian Heap; Angela Patterson and Glen Case.
There were also the charming Verica Bennett; Neil Hamaty; Paulette McGregor; Alfred Francis; Richard Nevers; Claudette Sutherland; Miguel Bernard; Carol Campbell; Aston Cooke; Herb Talabere and wife Laurel, visiting from Ohio; the simply stunning Karen Neita; Pat Austin; Fashion Designer Courtney Washington, in from New York; Eulalee Thompson; Carol Laws.
Also out were the NDTC chairman and former dancers, supporters and friends: Geoff Cobham; Monica McGowan; Barry Moncrieffe; Bridgette Spaulding; Clive Thompson; Bertie Rose; Arsenio Andrade and wife Carole and Sam Smith; plus several scores more!
But what a morning! It was a performance of which the late Professor Nettleford no doubt would have been extremely proud.