Thursday, 6 November 2014

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK: Aston Cooke leaps into the book world + Bashment Granny 3 warming up + NDTC's new guards on the record

CARRYING THE TORCH: Tasked with leading the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) into its next 50 years, Marlon Simms and Ewan Simpson wax optimistic about the road ahead while, in the same breath, praising the complete team effort being made as the deeply committed troupe of new-generation dancers and musicians hold fast to the twin idea of renewal and continuity in this post-Nettleford era. Simms, the company's associate director, and Simpson, the musical director, took part in last weekend's Two of a Mind symposium (honoring the lives and legacies of Rex Nettleford and Barry Chevannes) at the Institute of Jamaica.

"The NDTC dancers are all 9-to-5 professionals, but they are so passionate and dedicated to carrying on Prof's legacy that when we schedule rehearsals outside the regular hours they make every effort to attend," shared Simms, the School of Dance's deputy director, who also made the point that the NDTC is a totally voluntary company, meaning that none of the 50 dancers (who must learn 20 works each season) are salaried. "We take very seriously our job of enhancing the quality that the company is known for and carrying on the tradition," Simms noted.

As for the musical component, the company, which is turning 53 next year, continues to experiment with eclectic new arrangements and instrumentation techniques while staying true to the original mission of celebrating our Caribbean heritage. "The music of the NDTC has to be about us as a people," Simpson made clear. "Therefore, we are making music about who we are, how we came about and where we are going. The music of the NDTC exists primarily to support the movement of the company's dancers, which are statements about ourselves. For us, as musicians, it's about deciding how best we can use music to enhance those statements."

FINDING NEW LIFE: From the stage to the page. A pair of amazing plays that delve into traditional Jamaican cultural forms and creatively explore their merging with the modern world, Country Duppy and Jonkanoo Jamboree — both enlightening and entertaining works by Aston Cooke — have been brought together in a newly published book from Author House. For me, the book's timely release signals a brilliant new move by the multi-award-winning theatre man (and JCDC Chair) to conquer new storytelling territory after years of bringing his wit and sly sense of humour (steeped in our island culture, of course) to the stage. Michael Holgate totally gets where I'm coming from. "[He] has done a masterful job at storytelling with [these plays]," reports Holgate, who directed Jamboree at the Philip Sherlock Centre last season and, before that, a revival of Single Entry. "Readers will enjoy the Caribbean fantasy-like quality and appreciate the juxtaposition of rural life and the urban aesthetic of the dancehall."

GOING FOR GOLD: Let the buzz begin! Word is Stages Productions' Bashment Granny 3, starring Keith 'Shebada' Ramsey and the Stages crew is pulling out all the stops to emerge as the hottest ticket in town this December into the New Year. I recently bumped into Terri Salmon (this year's Thespy winner for her supporting role in Jamaica Sweet) who confided that she's been asked to join the cast. "I'm so looking forward to it," she told me. That makes two of us. 

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