Tue | Apr 16, 2024

‘Remembering Rex’ – enjoyable blend of experience and exuberance

Published:Wednesday | February 15, 2023 | 1:06 AM
The University Singers performing the delightful and comedic Jamaican folk song ‘Massa Sammy Oh’.
The University Singers performing the delightful and comedic Jamaican folk song ‘Massa Sammy Oh’.
An all-female cast of the NDTC performers in ‘Unbroken’, choreographed by Renee McDonald.
An all-female cast of the NDTC performers in ‘Unbroken’, choreographed by Renee McDonald.
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‘Remembering Rex’, a celebration of the legacy of cultural icon, Professor Rex Nettleford, unfolded at the Little Theatre last Wednesday before a large audience.

The artistic element of the programme served up an enjoyable blend of experience and exuberance, courtesy of the Nettleford-founded National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), as well as the NDTC Singers, the University Singers, and the always excellent band.

The opening dance number, Drumscore, a Nettleford work from 1979, set a scintillating pace, filled with contrasting rhythms and vibrant melodies arranged by Marjorie Whylie and delivered by the Company with appropriate vigour and dynamism.

The University Singers, under the direction of Franklin Haliburton, then entered with Lift Every Voice and Sing and Doluri, composed by Aleksi Machivariani of the Georgian Republic. From Eastern Europe, the programme journeyed to late 19th-century Italy with Luigi Denza’s rousing piece, Funiculi Funicula. An unannounced programme adjustment saw a stirring solo rendition of the National Pledge in place of the listed Somewhere Over the Rainbow, but the change did not disappoint.

The return of the dancers for Marlon Simms’ Cascade saw a shift in tempo from the opener, but no loss of intensity, as the Company presented themes of loss, and of making one’s way, against the musical backdrop of Experience and Clockwork from Ludovico Einaudi and Phillip Klein, respectively.

The singers returned with a delightful and comedic medley of Jamaican folk songs, several of which were centred around the love of food, in particular Massa Sammy Oh, in which the title character is subject to the clever and hilarious accusation of having eaten the prized meal of dumplings and yam.

Another dance highlight was the all-female presentation of Unbroken, choreographed by Renee McDonald. Through a seamless fusion of spoken verse (including presidential inaug uration poet Amanda Gorman’s We Rise) and a variety of musical pieces, the Company’s younger women delivered an irrefutable argument for women’s empowerment.

Fittingly for the time, Bob Marley’s enduring Rastaman Chant, arranged for the purpose by Ewan Simpson and O’Neal Mundle, marked the final appearance of the University Singers, which in turn set up the closing performance of the night, Nettleford’s Gerrehbenta with its riveting combination of vibrant sensuality and more elegant turns and saunters, backed up by the towering mythical Horse Head.

It was also a night for honouring worthy standard-bearers of the Nettleford vision. The recipient, renowned classical soprano and NDTC stalwart Carole Reid, responded with all the grace and humility that has characterised her illustrious career.

Scholarship presentations were made to Cornwall College alumnus and present actuarial science major at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, Mark Brown, and Jorane Byrd, resident of the UWI’s Rex Nettleford Hall.