Saturday, 3 August 2019

BEAUTY & BEYOND: Compelling new works nab the spotlight at NDTC’s thrilling 57th season of dance

FINE FORM: Kerry-Ann Henry leading the company in McFarlane's "Choke."

IT seems only fitting that one of the latest works to join the estimable canon of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) is entitled “Beauty Is.” After all, the NDTC, over the course of its 57-year history, has always been about the beauty inherent in movement.

Created by guest choreographer Hope Boykin (whose work includes collaborations with the US-based Alvin Ailey Dance Company), the piece combines a seductive spoken-word accompaniment, breezy white costumes, piano keys and graceful dancers to transport the audience to a spirit world where flowing streams refresh the inner landscape. Boykin is such a poetess, and it’s this aesthetic that truly elevates her creation to fine art.

Among the other new works thrilling audiences at the NDTC’s 2019 season at the Little Theatre is Orville McFarlane’s “Choke,” a sublime piece of expression that starts off with two people (Javal Lewis and Kerry-Ann Henry) before swelling into a cacophony, as the two leads are joined by supporting dancers. It’s a richly diverse work, borrowing even from ballet and other forms to tell a captivating story of desperate yearning and regret.

The trio of black-clad female dancers who populate Chris Walker’s “Troubled Waters” are similarly afflicted, caught in a battle of wills and pining for a way to escape as their fate is sealed.

Buju Banton knows all about fate and destiny and regret, ideas he’s consistently explored in his music to much acclaim. Musical Director Dr. Kathy Brown has brilliantly arranged a suite of timeless Banton tunes for “Journey,” a rapturous medley performed by the NDTC Singers, sporting militant costumes complete with red tams. It’s rhythmically appealing.

Meanwhile, in addition to a remount of Troy Powell’s dizzyingly entertaining “Unscathed,” a pair of Rex Nettleford classics completed the programme: “Blood Canticles,” full of reverence and haunting power, and “Kumina,” an elaborate serving of traditional Jamaican folk forms, with Marlon Simms and Keita-Marie Chamberlain reprising their roles as the king and queen.

Set under a bright full moon, the master work reels you in with its live spirited drumming, choral singing and infectious choreography. Simply beautiful.

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