NDTC to host virtual celebrations

Arts & Culture

NDTC to host virtual celebrations

Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

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THE effect of the COVID-19 pandemic will not deter the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC) from celebrating its 58th anniversary.

The troupe — which was founded by the late Professor Rex Nettleford and Eddy Thomas in 1962 — has unveiled a slate of events to mark the milestone and take the place of the annual season of dance, which has had to be cancelled in light of the ban on mass gatherings.

The virtual celebration of this anniversary will take place over four weekends from July 17 to August 9, the traditional dates of the NDTC's season of dance. The events will be showcased on the company's new website as well as social media platforms.

Each weekend bears a theme. The first set of events will be under the theme 'Roots — Foundation of the NDTC'. On July 17 the company digs into its archives to look at the NDTC's early repertoire. The following day will see a feature on co-founder Nettleford. The first weekend will wrap up with a discussion by founding members Bert Rose and Barbara Requa, hosted by NDTC alum Cheryl Rhyman.

The second weekend, July 24, 25 and 26, is being dedicated to late Artistic Director Barry Moncrieffe, who died in January of this year. The first event will be a virtual release of the Barry Moncrieffe Tribute Book, a compilation of all the tributes received by the company following his passing. The following day will be the release of Barry Moncrieffe in Performance. The weekend culminates with a discussion, 'Reflections on Barry Moncrieffe — A Gentle Giant', hosted by broadcaster and actress Fae Ellington.

The music of the NDTC comes into focus on the penultimate weekend, which has been dubbed NDTC in Music. The NDTC Singers and Musicians will entertain on July 31 with a suite of songs. On August 1, musical director emerita Marjorie Whylie will host a special folk music class for children. That weekend's final event will be a discussion, 'Development of the NDTC Soundscape', hosted by Carole Reid on August 2.

With renewal and continuity being a hallmark of the NDTC the final weekend, August 7-9, has been themed 'NDTC Forging Ahead'. The first event will be an NDTC masterclass on Zoom. August 8 will feature highlights of the NDTC's 57th season of dance. The virtual celebrations will close with the official launch of the new NDTC website.

According to artistic director of the company Marlon Simms, COVID-19 has forced the company to look at alternatives and be more creative in how to keep their audience engaged.

“This virtual format really shows that the NDTC is a survivor. We are not shrinking at all. Each year the company survives despite the challenges, so we are using this time to celebrate some of the many nuggets in the life of the company. It was very hard to select what we would highlight but came down with these areas around which we could create these themed weekends,” he said.

“This year has been very eventful, including the passing of Uncle Barry [Moncrieffe]. It would not be fit for us to celebrate his life and work in a tangible way,” Simms added.

Although excited about all aspects of this virtual celebration, Simms singled out the discussion featuring Rose and Requa, the Marjorie Whylie discourse for children, and the tribute to Moncrieffe as the events he was looking forward to the most. He also mentioned the contribution of the company's archivist Mark Phinn and NDTC alum Danielle Requa, whose efforts have gone into researching and presenting some areas of this year's celebrations.

“I want people to walk away from these events with a sense of hope. I hope they see the NDTC as an example of the strength we possess as a people and how we have overcome all the obstacles that have come our way. COVID, too, can be overcome and the arts will help us to get through whatever we are faced with,” said Simms.

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