Sat | Dec 4, 2021

'Bert Rose was a brilliant creative mind' - Simms

Published:Friday | April 2, 2021 | 5:54 AMShereita Grizzle/Staff Reporter -
Seminal dancer, choreographer and educator, Bert Rose, died on Thursday. He had been ailing for some time.
Seminal dancer, choreographer and educator, Bert Rose, died on Thursday. He had been ailing for some time.
Glen Kaisse and Bert Rose (right) at the National Dance Theatre Company's 45th anniversary gala at the Little Theatre in Kingston.
Glen Kaisse and Bert Rose (right) at the National Dance Theatre Company's 45th anniversary gala at the Little Theatre in Kingston.
Shirley Campbell as Mary in Eddy Thomas's 'And It Came To Pass' in 1963. In background is Bert Rose.
Shirley Campbell as Mary in Eddy Thomas's 'And It Came To Pass' in 1963. In background is Bert Rose.
Bert Rose performs in 'Court of Jah'.
Bert Rose performs in 'Court of Jah'.
Bert Rose built his dance experience in New York at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and as a performer in off-Broadway productions.
Bert Rose built his dance experience in New York at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and as a performer in off-Broadway productions.
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As Marlon Simms recounted some of the moments he shared with the late Bert Rose, the impact the founding member of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) and co-founder of the Jamaica School of Dance had on him was immediately evident. Simms, the current artistic director of the NDTC, had nothing but glowing testimonials of the dancer and choreographer extraordinaire he described as a genius, a master of his craft who though no longer physically present, will live on for generations to come.

"Bert Rose was a brilliant creative mind. He was capable of taking ordinary ideas and turning them into something extraordinary. His ability to execute the ideas he birthed left you in awe. It was amazing to watch him work. He could use movement to bring anything to life, so much so, [that] when it came to producing national events he was one of the persons who [was] always called upon," he said. That responsibility was something Simms said Rose took very seriously and that he loved showing off his country to the world. In fact, it was one of his top priorities.

NATION BUILDER

"Bert Rose represented that pre-independence generation who believed in moving the culture forward. And it was not just in the things they said but in what they did. He was a dancer, a choreographer, a teacher and a mentor, but he was a nation builder in every sense of the word," he shared.

Simms' commitment to the arts, he said, was selfless. "We are talking about 59 years of passion. Where have you ever seen that? You could call on him for anything. And when I say he embodied what it meant to be dedicated and committed, his work wasn't done with the hope of getting something back. It was [a] selfless commitment to the arts, his people, his country. His service was voluntary, and that's what made him extraordinary," Simms told The Gleaner.

The artistic director revealed that the NDTC was to show Rose's critically acclaimed 1987 piece, Edna M, on Sunday morning during their Morning of Movement and Music virtual show. He said with Rose's passing that showing will now hold even greater meaning. "That piece was a tribute to Edna Manley and her struggles, and it was just a beautifully crafted masterpiece. An iconic work that we are sure will never die. We are going to show it on Sunday during our virtual Easter production, and now with his passing, it's just going to take on a whole different meaning. It's like we're going to be reflecting even harder on the master choreographer and dancer he was," he said.

CELEBRATING HIS LIFE AND WORK

The showcase will now act as a tribute to Rose's legacy, but it's not the only one as the NDTC looks to do even more to celebrate its founding member's life and work. "For any organisation that has lost someone in these times, it's all about how you go about ensuring they get the kind of attention they deserve with restrictions and all these limits on gatherings in place. But even with these challenges and restrictions, we have to use the channels and really honour him in a way befitting a legend," he said.

With the tools at their disposal, they aim to give Rose a fitting send-off. "We have to do it in a way that shows how much love and respect we have for him, and so we are going to use the available technology to do what we can to make sure Jamaica knows how grateful we are for this extraordinary legacy he has left," Simms said.

In his early years, Rose trained with Eddy Thomas and at summer school hosted by The University of the West Indies, Mona campus. He continued to build his dance experience in New York at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and as a performer in off-Broadway productions. Dancing wasn't his only talent. He exhibited skill in the dramatic arts, winning praise for his portrayal of a plantation owner in the Legend of Lover's Leap, and received much acclaim for his role in Rex Nettleford's Dialogue for Three.

In 1970, Rose, Sheila Barnett and Barbara Requa teamed up under the direction of the NDTC to establish the Jamaica School of Dance. Together they offered training in a number of dance techniques, including classical ballet, Jamaican folk, modern and African dance. Before he began to choreograph fully, he contributed to Joyce Campbell's folk piece Dance Time in Cascade.

In 1973 and at the height of a distinguished performing career, Rose began serious choreography. A mix of modern dance and Caribbean movement, Thursday's Child was his first piece for the company. He followed it up with Glory Road. Other works by Rose include Reflections, Switch, Caribbean Canvas, and Steal Away.

shereita.grizzle@gleanerjm.com