The spirit of the late Professor Rex Nettleford permeated the Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Avenue, St Andrew, recently as members of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) paid tribute to its late co-founder in song and dance.It was high-quality entertainment at the Little Theatre recently when the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) and the UWI Singers came together to honour the late Professor Rex Nettleford in song and dance.
Organised by the Rex Nettleford Foundation, the annual event, titled ‘Remembering Rex’, took on a special meaning. The NDTC, co-founded by Nettleford, is celebrating its 55th anniversary in 2017, and so in addition to the performances, there were presentations of awards and scholarships to mark the milestone achievement.
The honourees were founding member of NDTC Bridget Spaulding and UWI Singers’ musical director and composer Noel Dexter. The inaugural Rex Nettleford Foundation Rex Nettleford Hall Award was presented to Dr Nicole Nation. In making the announcement, Elizabeth Buchanan-Hind, executive director of the foundation, said the award would be annual and would be presented to a student of the hall who exemplified qualities of the late vice-chancellor, as well as exhibited potential. Taje Platte, a past student of the professor’s alma mater, Cornwall College, was the recipient of the Rex Nettlford Scholarship.
Before and after the presentation of awards, the two-part entertainment package saw the UWI Singers and the NDTC alternating on stage. The UWI singers got their musical entrÈe going with M. Thomas Cousin’s Glorious Everlasting. They followed up with All Things Bright and Beautiful by John Rutter. After giving a splendid rendition of Funiculi, Funicula, led by soloists Anthony Alexander, Kester Bailey and Franklin Haliburton, they invited the audience to join them in singing Happy Birthday to Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen, who was in the audience.
MOVING TO THE BEAT
The group’s second performance came in the form of soloist Ranice Barrett. She gave a stirring performance of Giulio Caccini’s Ave Maria. Their final selection, Revival Bands, had the audience moving to every beat. The AndrÈ Bernard-arranged piece saw the group abandoning their red and black costumes for white attire accentuated with red or blue head and waistbands. The revival medley included songs such as Roll Call and Botheration.
Revival Bands was an ideal segue to the NDTC’S closing dance, ‘Gerrehbenta’, choreographed in 1983 by Rex Nettleford. The hybrid dance, boasting two of Jamaica’s major traditional rites, ‘Gerreh’ and ‘Dinky-Mini’, was performed by the full company. As Nettleford and his peers did decades ago, the dancers captivated the audience with colourful costumes and well-coordinated moves. The iconic Jamaican dance company also performed ‘Folktales’, choreographed in 2003 by another NDTC co-founder, Clive Thompson. It was performed by eight dancers who captured the playfulness and romance in the lyrics of the folksong medley.
Sandwiched between the founders’ dances were those of the next and present generations – Renee McDonald’s 2016 revised choreography, ‘Into the Blue’, and Kerry-Ann Henry’s emotive performance of Tony Wilson’s ‘Weeping Widow’.
The Most Hon P. J. Patterson, a director of The Nettleford Foundation, gave the welcome remarks.