Sat | Mar 25, 2023

An umbrella over dance companies, genres, seasons - Four honourees at festival's 10th staging

Published:Tuesday | February 27, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Michael Holgate, founder of Jamaica Dance Umbrella.
Professor Rex Nettleford
Meadowbrook High School performs ‘Die Ehefrauen’ (The Wives), at a previous staging of Jamaica Dance Umbrella.

For approximately the last quarter of each year, Michael Holgate attends as many of the annual cycle of Jamaican dance company seasons as he can. The founder and director of Jamaica Dance Umbrella is not the only person connected with the festival who observes the current repertoire, Holgate naming Renee McDonald and Neila Ebanks as others who keep a keen eye on the stage. Added to them is Nadia Roxburgh, technical manager, the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, UWI, Mona, where Jamaica Dance Umbrella is held.

Together, they put together a cohesive line-up over three nights each March, what can be described as a comprehensive insight into the previous year's dance season.

"Some seasons are for one weekend, some are one night. If you blink, you miss it," said Holgate, emphasising that not only does Jamaica Dance Umbrella allow audiences to get a sense of the various participants' development, but also the wide range of high-level dances practised in Jamaica.

This year's Jamaica Dance Umbrella runs from Thursday, March 1 to Sunday, March 4. On the first day, Professor Rex Nettleford (National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC)), Jackie Guy (NDTC and University Dance Society), Joseph E. Robinson (ASHE) and Barbara MacDaniel (Dance Theatre Xaymaca) will be honoured.

Holgate said in founding Jamaica Dance Umbrella a decade ago (the anniversary coincides with the UWI's 70th and Philip Sherlock Centre's 50th) he wanted to recreate remarkable experiences he had.

"Having spent my younger days touring the world with ASHE and going to festivals like CARIFESTA (in the Caribbean), in the south of France, Spain, and Italy, I wanted to create a festival that had this kind of energy," Holgate said. "I always wanted to do a show that unify the dance community. Not that they were at war, but to bring the companies together in a festival that showcases the best of what Jamaica has to offer."

In addition to doing that, Jamaica Dance Umbrella has been extended to overseas guests. A release from the organisers said previously, there have been participants from Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Guadeloupe, USA, Colombia, Cayman Islands, Barbados, Trinidad and Martinique. This year, the Barbados Dance Project and Ayikodans from Haiti, will be part of Jamaica Dance Umbrella. There are some staples on the annual programme, with the NDTC performing on Friday, L'Acadco - A United Caribbean Dance Force on Saturday, and The Company Dance Theatre on Sunday. Other Jamaican participants this year are ASHE, Dance Theatre Xaymaca, Movements Dance Company, Arabesk, One Body One God, Praise Academy, Beam, University Dance Society and Dance Works from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

Holgate, who says emphatically, that keeping a festival going for 10 years is difficult, is looking towards developing community and school involvement for Jamaica Dance Umbrella. And he hopes for the day when the festival, for which the participants are the major sponsors by contributing their talent, can generate funding to commission a major work from a participant at each staging.