A work in progress

Observer senior reporter

Sunday, February 18, 2018

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The School of Dance at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts continues its work to lift the standard of the art form here in Jamaica through the training of performance artistes and teachers.

Each year the school stages Danceworks — its production to showcase the work and talent of its students.

This year, staged under the theme 'Moving Forward', Danceworks featured a collection of pieces that was able to satisfy the entertainment aesthetic but, more importantly, pointed to the fact that the students are a work in progress.

Of the one dozen works showcased, the majority was taken from the modern genre with a few pop and a single folk work thrown in. Despite what is obviously raw talent and potential, the student dancers were not as impressive as they could have been if they had diversified the offering a bit more to showcase their versatility. Too many of the modern works were of a similar style and theme. Undoubtedly influenced by their tutors and mentors, there was a sameness in the dance vocabulary used hence, aside from the costume changes, some of the works just morphed into each other.

The dancers displayed a innate sensibility when it came to performing the popular works set to Jamaican and wider Caribbean music. The energy levels and confidence were at optimal levels. So Touch Down, choregoraphed by Jessica Shaw; DHQ, with movement designed by Shereda McEwan, Dashaun Prince and Annesa Shaw; as well as Bitta Blood, choreographed by Liane Williams, saw the performers in their comfort zones.

There were, however, moments when both choreography and performance reached acceptable levels. Taciturn by Orville McFarlane, which explored the use of dance to communicate when speech becomes obsolete, did just that. The dancers fully understood the story being told and took it to their audience.

The strength of Arsenior Andrade's 1999 work Congo Laye, originally set on the National Dance Theatre Company, was evident. After nearly two decades, the work of this Cuban dancer and choreographer is still potent and reaches an audience. The students, joined by members of the faculty at the School of Dance, were able to do justice to what will become a classic in the halls of Jamaican dance.

The student dancers who are drawn from all levels at the institution will undoubtedly draw experience and inspiration from this year's presentation, which will inform their practice and craft in the years to come.




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