Arts & Culture

NDTC founding member dead

Observer senior reporter

Thursday, August 16, 2018

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Audley Butler, a founding member of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), is dead.

He passed away in New York on Sunday where he had gone to attend his sister's funeral.

Interestingly, Sunday also marked the closing of the company's 56th annual season of dance at the Little Theatre in St Andrew.

NDTC artistic director Marlon Simms said Butler's passing came to him with “utter shock and disbelief”, considering he made good on a promise and attended this year's opening night.

“I had just seen him opening night and he gave me his customary warm embrace. That was just a few weeks ago and we had no indication that he was ill. He was a gentle giant and I was so pleased that he had accepted our invitation and come into Kingston from St Ann, where he lived, for the event. Mr (Bert) Rose informed me on Sunday during the final show, just before intermission, that he had passed. I then had to go on and tell the members of the company... I was in disbelief,” Simms told the Jamaica Observer.

Simms and Butler did not cross paths at the NDTC, but the artistic director recalls their interactions.

“I have always sought to draw the surviving founding members closer, considering their contribution to the development of the the company and legacy. I recall a conversation we had regarding my performance in Dialogue For Three; a role he performed years prior, and he was very complimentary. The younger members of the company were familiar with his interpretation having watched the tapes over the years, so I was so pleased with his critique,” Simms added.

Founding members Bert Rose and Barbara Requa have noted their deep sense of loss at Butler's passing.

“After 57 years of friendship, founding members together of our beloved NDTC, suffice it to say that your transcendence has left me with only memories of some of the most significant events in my life because we will create them no more. Still, I know that wherever your spirit travels will be blessed because every moment we shared has been a blessing to my life,” Rose noted.

In a release, the NDTC noted that Butler was trained in both the Ivy Baxter and the Eddy Thomas studios, and brought an innate musicality, a sense of the street, and great dedication to the company.

The 56-year-old troupe also noted that Butler was known for his solid dancing and physicality and became an audience favourite, established through the strong dance personality he brought to his various roles: the authoritative Rasta chief in Two Drums for Babylon, the imperious second shepherd in Pocomania, the calculating rival in The King Must Die, the powerfully visceral young warrior in African Scenario, the boyish schoolyard brat in Games of Arms, the jealous slave traitor in Legend of Lovers' Leap, and the passionate suitor in Dialogue for Three.

Butler stopped performing full time with the company in 1974 when he migrated to the United States. He, however, maintained contact and for many years returned to Jamaica to work on the annual season, performing in the corps de ballet of Kumina.

Butler is survived by his widow Sandra, children and grandchildren.

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