Thu | Jul 18, 2024

CDT gala enjoyed by enthusiastic audience

Published:Wednesday | June 12, 2024 | 4:27 PMMichael Reckord/Gleaner Writer
The Company dancers perform ‘Rejoice in the Clouds’ choreographed by Tony Wilson.
The Company dancers perform ‘Rejoice in the Clouds’ choreographed by Tony Wilson.
Tony Wilson's 'Jamaica Wi Proud' was brought to life in Jamaican-flag inspired costumes.
Tony Wilson's 'Jamaica Wi Proud' was brought to life in Jamaican-flag inspired costumes.
Company Dance Theatre Gala honourary chair Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, addresses the audience.
CDT Gala honourary chair Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, addresses the audience.
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“It was good. I enjoyed it.”

That assessment and explanation of it came from a woman in the seat behind me as we prepared to leave the Courtleigh Auditorium on Sunday evening. Judging from the enthusiastic applause and cheers that were just dying down, she was expressing the opinion of the vast majority, if not all, of the audience at CDT's second gala concert.

Any minor dissent would probably have come from those who were not family and friends of the younger dancers, those in the five to 15 age range who were in the CDT school and not in the CDT dance company, or even the Adult Ensemble. Members of all three groups performed, separately in all but one dance, at the gala.

Over the course of the two-hour-long concert, more than three groups took the stage. In the CDT School, there are levels – Level 1, 2 and 3, with more than 16 students each and the smaller Junior and Adult Ensembles. There’s also the Company, which itself has three levels – Principal Dancers, Members and Apprentices.

The quality of the dancing understandably differs among the groups and though dance aficionados might well say they enjoyed all they saw on Sunday, they would hardly say that all they saw was exceptionally technical. There is a difference between dance and movement, and with the first three levels, there was more of the latter than the former.

Still, there was much to like; the tots were cute, beautifully dressed and totally enjoying themselves. And their happiness was contagious. The exposure was salutary, of course: with more of it, and continuing training, those little ones will become the big dance names of the future.

Sophisticated dance came, in the first half, with the first and final dance. These were Rejoice in the Clouds (2007) by Tony Wilson, the founder of the original Company Dance Theatre and its affiliated School, and Michael Holgate’s 2010 dance excerpt, Creole Blooming. The first featured the entire company; the second featured both the company and the Junior Ensemble, and with the Company members especially, one saw controlled, graceful bodies energetically – gymnastically even – moving around and on and off the stage.

A striking difference between the two lay in the costuming. Because the setting of the first dance was the clouds (hence the name), the costume designer apparently chose to have all the dancers dressed in white, forgetting, perhaps, that clouds come in a variety of colours. If the dance is remounted in the CDT’s season in November, costumes in pink, purple, orange and dark grey would definitely give the dance a lift. On the other hand, Creole Blooming, with its equally evocative title, is Africa-flavoured – as its music and multi-coloured African print costumes shows.

The intermission between the two dance halves was not your usual refreshment-restroom break. In the period, not one but two Government ministers spoke, Alando Terrelonge, minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the MC for the evening, and Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade.

His task main task was to introduce her as the evening’s main speaker, but before he took that on, we heard that the proceeds from the gala would be providing care for the ailing Tony Wilson (who was in the theatre) and scholarships to the CDT. Terrelonge also mentioned that the CDT School’s Summer programme would be led by two top dancers from New York and that both he and Johnson Smith were former CDT dancers.

After heaping praise on Wilson’s leadership and on the CDT, which is dedicated to continuing Wilson’s legacy, Johnson Smith waxed lyrical and philosophical about dance generally.

“Dance,” she said, “gives so much to life, and in such a wonderful way. It teaches discipline, but in a space that at the same time is full and tough. It teaches you that even when things don’t work out as you planned them, they’re still incredible and can be converted to success.

“Dance teaches you that talent is not enough, hard work is always necessary. Practice, discipline and commitment is what leads to success. Dance teaches you that everyone has talent. There is weakness, and there is nothing wrong with that. What it means is that we have to learn to play to our strengths and that determines how far we go and where we go.

“Dance delivers physical and mental well-being, discipline and patience, time management and adaptability, self-confidence and poise. All these benefits and more imbue each and every dancer with transformative and transferable life skill which can prepare you for success in any area you choose.“

Toward the end of her address, she said that the performing arts generally have been helping to showcase Jamaica to the world and that, currently, “Brand Jamaica is one of the strongest and most sought after”.

The strengths of the company as a whole that we saw in the first half was even more evident in the second. Rightly working toward the powerful final item, Wilson’s Jamaica Wi Proud (2008) choreographed to music by Khago and Bob Marley, the evening’s organisers staged the more interesting, more colourful, more energetic pieces.

Worthy of note is the extraordinary number of new works in the show:11 of the 15 were created this year. We wonder if they will be polished or replaced by even newer ones for the November season.

entertainment@gleanerjm.com