Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Young NDTC choreographers showcase their work

Published:Thursday | December 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMMichael Reckord/Gleaner Writer
Amoi Duffus performs in A Woman's Woe.
An emotional Scene from A Woman's Woe'.
Kareen McClean speaking about her piece.
Mark Phinn (left) leads other dancers in 'Spirit at a Gathering'.
Rajeave Mattis, speaking about his piece, A Woman's Woe. .
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A special benefit that young choreographers and dancers get from the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) Young Choreographers Showcase is verbal feedback.

The annual event is staged in the NDTC studio, and the audience, give comments and ask questions after the show.

Those participating in the showcase on Saturday night got lots of encouragement. It started with the welcome by NDTC Artistic Director Marlon Simms, who revealed that not only was he one of the original young choreographers in 2000, but the dance he choreographed for the showcase was chosen by the then artistic director, Professor Rex Nettleford, for inclusion in that year's Season of Dance. That information might well have caused one or two of the night's choreographers to wonder if they could follow in Simms' footsteps.

Simms told the audience of the rigours of the preparation process that choreographers go through. From concep-tualising the piece, to selecting the cast, to rehearsals, etc. He notes that generally they take feedback well, even when their original ideas are being challenged.

The welcome was followed by another example of what's possible for the choreographers - an excerpt from a Nettleford work performed by the company's dancers. The excerpt, from 'Spirits at a Gathering', was excellent, but did not overshadow the dances that were to come.

Spirits was followed by nine other works- all quite short, so the show lasted about 70 minutes. The first four were; 'Alone' (choreographed by Mackenson Blanchard) - about the discomfort, even pain, a woman feels when she's alone. 'Rebirth' (Kemar Francis), which shows a remarkably active foetus in the womb; the cleverly named 'Heads Pace' (Malikah Johnson, who also danced); and 'Real-Lationship' (Paul Newman) about a woman in an abusive relationship with a continuously apologising man. Newman is currently a NDTC member and lecturer at the School of Dance, and so arguably not a bona fide 'young choreographer.'

 

Abstract piece

 

Another dance by Blanchard an Erzulie followed - an abstract piece, performed by Ashley Bromfield, who balanced well, even when she was dancing on a chair. Then came 'Message of Pain' (Kenneil Smith), a dance in three movements about pain and suffering. 'Journey for Two' (Jamie Thompson), danced by an athletic duo (Michael Small and Javal Lewis) with some martial arts-like moves incorporated. 'A Woman's Woe' (Rajeave Mattis), about child abuse and incest; and, finally, 'Eccentric' (Kareen McLean), an abstract, frenetic work.

There was initially some discussion about the general bleak tone of the dances. "Does everything have to be so sad or mad?" someone asked. The moderator, Kerry-Ann Henry, NDTC ballet mistress, commented that an important function of the arts was to bring up sensitive issues like incest and domestic abuse for public discussion.

Members of the audience praised both the choreographers and the dancers for their work, the most interesting of which was the one by Mattis. Not surprisingly, as a graduate of the Edna Manley College's School of Drama, he created a dance drama (a dance with identifiable characters and a strong storyline). It featured dancers, actresses from the Drama School, and live drumming and song.

In speaking with The Gleaner, Mattis revealed his versatility. He said that while his first love was drama, which relies heavily on words to tell stories, paradoxically, he also loved dance, which does not need words. He has been attending the NDTC training classes for the past year, and over the same period, he has been stage managing NDTC shows.

"I see it as a way to grow in theatre," he said, "and I love anything that's theatre."