Young choreographers on show
Chester Francis-Jackson, Gleaner Writer
It is said that Christmas is a time for giving, and whomever it was who coined that age-old marketing phrase might have captured the commercial attraction of the Yuletide experience.
But a few Tuesdays ago, the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC) Young Choreographers' Showcase, 'Works In Progress' 2010, gave graphic, cultural, spiritual and artistic meaning to those sentiments, capturing the very essence of Christmas, while providing much valuable insight into the company and its treasure chest of talent!!
The showcase was essentially an arena to highlight the works of the company's budding choreographers. It has been nothing short of a treasure trove of fabulous talent since its inaugural staging a decade ago. Hosted at the NDTC Studios, at the Little Theatre Complex, on Tom Redcam Avenue on December 21, the showcase was not only the ultimate Christmas gift. It was an offering for the mind, body and soul in a rich cultural presentation that was sheer joy and proved a most stimulating repertoire. It portends well for the future of the company, coming as it did after the passing of its founding artistic director and principal choreographer Professor Rex Nettleford!
For the showcase, there were about 200 guests, and luvs, when the curtains went up for show time, it was standing room only!
The programme began with the dancers going through their warm-ups, and even this made for arresting viewing as it proved a beauty to see the dancers exercising, that came across as glorious art! The night's opening number was a tribute to Professor Nettleford, a remount of a piece first premiered in 1988, and choreographed by him titled Flash Of The Spirit. It was remounted by the company's dance captain, Marlon Simms, coached by Alaine Grant, and saw Mark Phinn and Kerry-Ann Henry as leads. Here the 'Nettlefordian' dance vocabulary, ethos and cultural travails eliciting pathos, was at its best and thus framing, one was lead to believe, the evenings offerings!
The evening's programme included new offering: Manalogue also by Simms, Unravelled by Tovah-Marie Bembridge, the yet untitled offering by Kevin More, Circles by Tamara Thomas, In Deh by Stefanie Thomas and Far From Heaven by Cristina Gonzalez. It was clear that while the 'Nettlefordian' vocabulary was an omnipresent guiding force, the language, text and texture of the young choreographers' showcase was not ever going to be a nostalgic rehash or disguised plagiarism of former glory days of NDTC dance ballads. Guests were in for an awakening and introduction to the glorious future of dance and the NDTC; and luvs, needless to say, not only did the young choreographers shine brilliantly, the audience, made up of youngsters and their parents, as well as dance lovers generally, embraced it with gusto!
Following the 10-minute intermission, the company resumed with Street Swag by Benton Morris, followed by a musical injection, which saw the oh-so-talented soprano Dahlia-Dawn Fuller-Phillips and tenor Carl Bliss, entertaining with an offering from the Phantom of the Opera. Their rendition of All I Ask Of You, made for a soul-stirring performance, which saw the audience signalling its approval with a hearty dosage of applause. Sadly, this fabulously wonderful musical offering was the only piece for the duo, and so left guests yearning for more.
The dance programme continued with Still I Rise by Kerry-Ann Henry, followed by Reckless Desire by Terry-Ann Denniston, followed by Jus' Cause There Is Always A New Day by Stefanie Thomas and the penultimate offering being Alpha by Benton Morris, with the evening's offering crescendoing with The Thin Line by Natalie Chung.
The night belonged to Natalie Chung, with her offering of The Thin Line - Heaven Has No Rage, Like Love To Hatred Turned! Set to the music of Enigma, featuring Enya, in the Age of Loneliness, and Christina Perri, Jar of Hearts, with dancers Tamara Noel (as the Seductress), Allatunje Connell (as the Player); with the aforementioned Bembridge, Marisa Benain, Stefanie Thomas, Kevin Moore, Benton Morris and Paul Newman, the dance was as arresting as it was captivating, and not just because of the exquisite portrayal of the roles, but the very topical storyline and artistic exploration its author gave it, brought it to life in such a wholesome mode. It impacted on the consciousness at both the subliminal and post-emotional levels in the most profound of performer-to-audience exchange this scribe has ever witnessed, and it made for a most compelling piece! Exploring the traditional story of love going sour, and then lovers going out to explore their options and attractions, it made for potent dialogue and Chung proved a superb choreographer in her interpretation, delivery and mastery of that dialogue! It was simply flawless from concept to execution, and nothing but a 10!!
Morris proved both a jewel as a dancer and as a choreographer as his Alpha, was the second most riveting find of the evening, as he and Kamar Tucker were suitably paired in his offering, with Tucker proving an excellent dancer. And as one of the NDTC's new recruits, he distinguished himself as a performer of style and stature, equal to his more seasoned colleague. Alpha, however, while conceptualised as a duet, its intensity, high-velocity and dram beg of the choreographer to upgrade it to a chorus of, say, six, for the true magic and mastery to be fully unleashed, and thus truly appreciated!
Dears, the event made for a fine outing and nothing but, with among those out: NDTC Chairman Geoff Cobham; artistic director Barry Moncrieffe; NDTC alumni and choreographer Clive Thompson; Melanie Graham; Bridgette Spaulding; famed photographer and NDTC alumni Maria Layacona; Barbara Requa; Judith Wedderburn; the charming Cheryl Hyman; the lovely Carole Reid; renowned psychiatrist Dr Freddy Hickling and wife, Dr Pamela Hickling; The Rev Dr Ralph Hoyte; Dr Hazel Bennett; Dr Maris Smith; Edgar Gallimore and his daughter Nathalie Gallimore; Sandra Glasglow; renowned dancer Tony Wilson; Rooney Chambers; Nancy McLean; Roger Hinds; the gorgeous Nathalie Moncrieffe; Robert Stephenson; the lovely Carmen Clarke; Phillip Lindo; Winsome Minott; the affable Patrick Pitter; the beautiful Ruth-Ann Gordon; Pansy Benjamin and daughter Karlene Pinnock and her son Ethan Benjamin; Dwayne Goulbourne; and Wayne Christie, in from New York, plus a number of others!