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Jackie Guy recognised in 2012 Queen's Birthday Honours List - Receives Member of British Empire Award

Published:Sunday | July 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Jackie Guy (left) takes a dance group through its paces in the United Kingdom. - Contributed

Founding Artistic director of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Dance Society, and former principal dancer with the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), Jackie Guy, has been conferred with the Member of British Empire Award (MBE) in the 2012 Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Jeremy Hunt, United Kingdom secretary Of state, in his letter to Guy, advising him of the award, said: "A noted historian, choreographer, lecturer and archivist in the field of Caribbean tradition folk dances, you have made a significant contribution to the development of Caribbean dance education to the UK cultural sector. I know that this award will be warmly welcomed by your friends and colleagues."

Guy spearheaded the UWI Dance Society for almost 20 years before heading off to the UK in 1988 to further make his mark.

On hearing the news, he said, "I was somewhat surprised, but immensely happy and shed a tear because I know my dear Mother Guy would have been extremely happy for me if she were physically alive to celebrate in this special moment. I also feel very proud as a Jamaican who has contributed a great deal to the development of Caribbean dance within the United Kingdom."

A recipient of several awards for outstanding contribution to dance and theatre, last October Guy also received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication and contribution to the development of dance of the African diaspora in the UK.

Illustrious career

Guy received his early training from Alma Mock Yen, OD. He was also the artistic coordinator, tutor and choreographer for Movements Dance Company for many years. In 1988, he became artistic director of Kokuma Dance Theatre Company in the UK. He took the company to full professional status.

Under his artistic leadership and vision, the company won the Black Dance Awards for Outstanding Choreography and Production and the Prudential Commendation Award for Excellence, Innovation and Creativity.

Guy is well known and respected for his highly creative approach to community dance projects throughout Britain, as well as those he conducted as part of a British Council initiative in Zimbabwe where dancers and students travelled from South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Malawi and other regions to experience his classes.

His work as a dancer, teacher and choreographer has taken him throughout Europe, Africa, Australia, the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Within his choreographic works, Guy fuses traditional Caribbean dance voca-bulary and folklore with elements of modern/contemporary dance techniques.

The result is a unique style which balances theoretical principles with a practical approach that enables dancers to experience the dance form while also learning its sociocultural dynamics and nuances. His work remains inspiring, grounded in a rich Caribbean cultural tradition and immensely accessible.

Many compositions

He has worked for the Birmingham Royal Ballet Education Department, BBC Philharmonic (Manchester) Education Department, Royal Festival Hall, Talawa Theatre, ACT Theatre Company, Sampad, Irie! Dance Theatre, Blue Mountain Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Adzido Dance Company, Sadler's Wells Education Department and a host of colleges and universities throughout Britain and the United States.

Among his choreographic works on the international dance landscape are: the record-breaking iconic Jamaican musical, The Harder They Come, O Babylon, One Love, Caribbean Connection, Romeo and Juliet, Golden Mask of Agamemnon, Marat Sade, Spirit of Carnival, Repercussions, Sting, History of the Drum and Twelfth Night.

On the local scene, he is credited for choreographing LTM Pantomimes Music Boy, Johnny Reggae, Mansong, The Pirate Princess and Ginneral B.

Mock Yen, at a recent homecoming master class held in his honour at the Philip Sherlock Centre at UWI to celebrate the MBE achievement, recalled with pride her longstanding association with Guy and referred to him as the perfect manager, attending to all the needs of students to ensure the show got on the road.

Dr Nadia Williams, a past president of UWI Dance Society, reminisced that Jackie had the most uncanny ability to take the weakest dancers and make their strengths shine through. "Despite the rigours of the classes, rehearsals and performances, we always enjoyed ourselves."