A promise kept
For the past five years, the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble has incorporated works from Nance Dance Collective in their annual season of dance.
“The collaboration is simply fantastic. We do their dances and they do our dances. I said to them, you just look like a yardie. We look forward to them coming and they look forward to us coming,” founder and artistic director Dr Monika Lawrence shared with The Gleaner at Saturday’s staging of the Stella Maris Ensemble 26th Season of Dance.
Held at the Little Theatre, Kingston, the audience was treated to spectacle and finesse in the works of choreographers Lawrence, Dr Kemal Nance, Renee McDonald, Danzel Thompson and Tony Wilson.
The evening of dance and music began with Wilson’s 2014, choreography, Patchwork. It was a display of fine extensions and well-defined formations. The dance, Apostolic, choreographed by Bert Rose and Lawrence, was one of four new works. In three movements: Before Christ, Year of Christ and Movement Heavenly, the audience was taken on a spiritual journey.
The first taste of the collaborative feast between Nance and Stella Maris dancers came in the second new work, on the programme. Red, choreographed by artistic director of Nance Dance Collective, Kemal Nance.
The movements associated with hip hop was the choice vocabulary. Like their American counterparts, the Jamaican dancers executed the choreographer’s metaphoric expression of actions and emotions associated with the colour red, with aplomb. As expected, the dominant colour of the costumes was red, complemented with black. Nance ended his beautiful work of dance with a symbolical opened red umbrella.
Their next merging came in the closing, a dance drama, African Nite, choreographed by Lawrence, 2004 and remounted by Wendi Hoo Fatt. The dance is a celebration of Jamaican religious forms, Wake and Revival, revised with a contemporary twist.
“Today, the whole religious part of the Wake tradition has been changing, you do not find the traditional movements. It has crossover. What I have done is to show the crossover,” said Lawrence.
Also, in keeping with revival tradition, this year a choir, the Jamaica Youth Choral, was incorporated in the dance drama.
Danzel Thompson, a member of the Nance Dance Collective, participated in the entertaining dramatic piece. He expressed likeness of the nuances of the dance forms and said performing African Nite was easy for him as an African American. But as a hip-hop dancer there were some challenges.
Nance believed that his dancers’ ability to execute the steps is because of the commonality in their history. “I kinda access my epic memory, to make this kind of connection with my dancers.”
McDonald’s engaging Vow (2018) as well as a more sobering Dauntless (2019), with Thompson’s solo piece (In) Between (2019) provided flavour and intensity to the programme. So did the Jamaica Youth Chorale, who rendered a heartfelt Many Rains Ago.