Wolmer's Dance Troupe going strong at 22
Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer
Cheers and applause continually rang through the Little Theatre on Friday night as members of the audience expressed their delight. The show, titled 'Series', was Wolmer's Dance Troupe's 22nd season of dance.
On stage were scores of performers from both the Wolmer's Preparatory School and Wolmer's High School for Girls. The creators of their dances were Barbara McDaniel, the troupe's artistic director and chief choreographer; Onaje, Orrette Beckford, Natalie Nash, Stephanie Smith and Jair Jones.
Though the dancers were children and teens - with many more of the former than the latter, making the average age of the troupe quite low - the subjects of a number of the dances were fairly philosophical.
For example, the first of the dances, Where We Were, was based on Dr Martin Luther King Jr's famous 'I have a dream' speech.
The third dance, The Year 3000, was introduced in the printed programme in this way: "After the great tragedy that obliterated mankind, humans are reborn. To avoid war, which had once destroyed us, we detach from human-like emotions and evolve into half man, half robot." The fourth dance, Creation, has as its epigraph the first verse of the book of Genesis.
Two of the movements in the fifth dance were tributes, one to the late singer Whitney Houston, the other to Jamaica's own Olympic star sprinter, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
For the final dance, Young, Gifted and Black, the audience was invited to take a Jamaican journey "from the good old days to 2012".
One does not expect professional-level dancing from young, and therefore inexperienced, dancers; nor did the audience get same.
Admittedly, though, a lot of potential was on display, for in dance, as in all the arts, Jamaica has abundant raw talent; and here special mention must be made of Jair's excellent performances in a number of the dances.
But what was lacking in technique was made up for in clever choreography and costuming. Children and teens (that is, tiny tots, intermediates, juniors and seniors) were judiciously mixed in most of the dances; that meant cute kids and relatively talented older dancers alternated rapidly as one movement (or dance segment) followed another.
Along with the continual shift of body sizes, shapes and activities came a continual change of costumes. Thanks must be extended to the designers: McDaniel, Loran V, Arlene Richards, Quindell Ferguson and Carol Matthews who did a wonderful, eye-pleasing job with colour and cut of cloth.
All the colours of the rainbow were used in the costume designs and when the stage was full of gorgeously dressed dancers, especially at the end of the final dance, the picture created was quite marvellous.
Visually, therefore, the show was an indisputable hit.
Accompanying the generally easy (but eminently suitable for the age groups) choreography was a lot of popular music. Older songs like All of Me, Sinner Man, One Moment in Time, and Houston's haunting I Will Always Love You were part of a mix which also featured songs by contemporary hit makers like Beenie Man, Elephant Man and Mr Lex.
The three-day season of dance ended on Sunday. The off-stage producers have every reason to be proud of the on-stage performers who by now must be back with their books.