The life and work of the late academic and cultural icon Professor Rex Nettleford was celebrated in song and dance at the Little Theatre in St Andrew on Tuesday.
Nettleford, who died in the United States four years ago, was remembered with performances from the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), which he co-founded 52 years ago as well as the University Singers — a choir for which he provided choreography.
Organised by the Rex Nettleford Foundation, it was a packed theatre which witnessed stellar performances from the two renowned troupes. The event’s proceeds will fund the Foundation’s work.
The NDTC, in keeping with the theme of renewal and continuity adopted since Nettleford’s passing, chose pieces by established and emerging choreographers while the ‘Singers’ delivered their signature smorgasbord of styles and genres.
The night’s standout performances were the Nine Nite Suite by the University Singers. The opening line — Death has a time to steal us away — was the perfect segue to the NDTC’s Steal Away choreographed by Bert Rose. The singers were able to capture the nuances of this African-based, Jamaican tradition of sending home the spirits in a truly celebratory fashion, the performance culminating in dance and revelry.
The ballet from the NDTC showcased the incredible lines and control of ballet mistress Kerry Ann Henry, who played the central figure, ably supported by Alicia Glasgow, Terry-Ann Dennison, Mark Phinn and Marlon Simms.
Nettleford’s work was showcased with the mounting of Dis Poem, from the 1988 set of dub poet Mutabaruka, and the night’s closing dance The Renewal, which featured excerpts of Nettleford’s choreography with staging by Kevin Moore and Herman Thomas.
The enjoyable night of performances was also enhanced by the delightful voice of soprano Alecia Forbes, whose rendition of This Little Light of Mine was a joy, particularly the heady notes at the close. One is always taken aback by the voice which comes from this petite singer. The Survivor medley got the audience going thanks to the series of popular tracks.
The night ended on a spirited, celebratory note with The Awakening, a revival piece set to live music courtesy of the NDTC singers.