Fri | Apr 19, 2024

Rex Nettleford remembered in song, dance and citations

Published:Tuesday | February 20, 2024 | 12:08 AM
UWI International Relations student Deanna Fraser is delighted to receive the Rex Nettleford Hall Award of excellence during the Remembering Rex celebration.
UWI International Relations student Deanna Fraser is delighted to receive the Rex Nettleford Hall Award of excellence during the Remembering Rex celebration.

For 13 years now, the Rex Nettleford Foundation recently honoured the life and legacy of its namesake, National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) co-founder and international culture advocate Professor Rex Nettleford, with an evening of singing, dance, and honorary awards and citations at Kingston’s Little Theatre.

The creative portion of the evening opened with the Company performing Nettleford’s Spirits at a Gathering set to the music Deep Forest.

The first of several appearances by the University Singers followed, with the ensemble delivering Franklin Haliburton’s specially composed Alleluia, followed by a trip to the American deep South, with Althea McKenzie’s commanding rendition of the Florence Price transcribed spiritual My Soul’s Been Anchored in de Lord.

A spoken word reflection announced the first of two solo pieces , Marlon Phinn exploring themes of rejection, abandonment, and resilience the aptly titled Introspection before the chorale returned to lead the proceedings into the interval with a medley in tribute to reggae great Jimmy Cliff, arranged by musical director Dr Kathy Brown.

Kerry Ann Henry, with some accompaniment from the singers, returned after the interval with Queen, the Renee McDonald-choreographed tribute to Nanny of the Maroons.

Arguably the night’s most enjoyable sequence followed. With a nod to the current political moment, the Singers did a trio of selections by Grub Cooper from the 1992 LTM Pantomime Man Deh Yah, with Lloyd Lovindeer’s Trailer Load a Politicians thrown in for humorous good measure. It was then time to pay the obligatory tribute to another reggae great with the Bob Marley classics Three Little Birds and One Love.

Nettleford had his deserved finale at the close with the irresistible Kumina with its driving percussion, spins, wails, ‘stick fighting’, and handclaps delivering just what the audience was needing to send them home in the best spirits - until next time.


An important part of the evening was the presentation of honorary awards.

Michael ‘Rufus’ McDonald, a mainstay of the Little Theatre community and the only lighting and creative technician to have served with all of the artistic directors of the NDTC since its founding, was hailed for his commitment to excellence and warm, engaging manner. In typical self-effacing fashion, the honoree confessed to “not liking it so much on the other side of the lights” but briefly expressed gratitude to all who had been a part of his journey.

The other honorees were University of the West Indies international relations student Deanna Fraser (resident on Rex Nettleford Hall) who received a rousing welcome and cheers throughout from her schoolmates present in the audience. Both Fraser and Cornwall College headboy Mattheou Dillon White, who followed, displayed a natural charm and understated eloquence in their respective responses, with Fraser in particular coining the term “rexellence”. Both spoke highly of Professor Nettleford’s impact on shaping their own personal outlooks and instilling in them the drive for excellence which, inevitably, led them to the present accolade.