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NDTC Jamaica Returns to Toronto with ‘Tribute to Rex’

NDTC Jamaica Returns to Toronto with ‘Tribute to Rex’

Posted by Shanelle Weir on October 27, 2014

Jamaica may be the land of sprinters but it’s really the vision and mentality of the long-distance runner upon which the country’s most enduring organizations have been built. This was the inspiring belief of scholar, visionary and co-founder of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) of Jamaica, the late Professor Rex Nettleford. His vision is personified by the NDTC, a company that continues the course by upholding its excellence and celebrating tradition.  

The NDTC is a voluntary group of dancers, singers, musicians and creative technicians who collectively aim to promote Jamaican culture through traditional dance arts and music.

Founded in 1962, the same year Jamaica gained its independence from Great Britain, Rex Nettleford and Eddy Thomas started the company with just fifteen dancers. The group has become a staple of Jamaican culture as they embody the passion, creativity and unity that  characterizes the people of Jamaica.

Throughout the years, the company has grown and evolved with a new generation of artists but has managed to maintain its heritage and strong cultural identity. The ensemble has performed in Europe, North, Central and South America, Australia and in various countries throughout the Caribbean. As they celebrate the completion of 52 seasons, the company will make a highly anticipated one-night performance at the Sony Center in Toronto, Canada.

PanamamericanWorld had the pleasure of speaking with associate artistic director and co-choreographer Marlon Simms ahead of the November performance to get an exclusive preview of what the Toronto audience can expect.

Its been 15 years since the company’s last appearance in Toronto back in 1999. The group is looking forward to reconnecting with its Canadian audience and Caribbean followers living in Canada. In the 15 year absence, the company tragically lost one of its anchors and inspirations, Professor Rex Nettleford. Eager to celebrate his legacy,  the company has prepared a montage of works, old and new, as a tribute to the cultural icon.

The November 4th performance entitled, ‘Tribute to Rex’ was designed to familiarize audiences with the man that was Professor Rex Nettleford. For members of the company like Marlon Simms, Rex was an unforgettable influence with depthful insight about the Jamaican identity.

He was able to capture imagination and talent, demonstrating the excellence of his people. He was a mentor, an artist, a man who wore many hats but remained humble. As Simms remembers, he was a man who never lost sight of the intrinsic value of the individual. He would take the time to personally congratulate and thank each member of the company at the end of each season, even writing letters of personal recognition.

Although he is gone, the company continues to celebrate his contributions and maintain his spirit through his choreography and his various works, some of which are part of the November 4th programme. Dialogue for Three tells the highly-emotional and intimate story of a man caught up in a love triangle  while Gerrehbenta is a rich display of folk and traditional dance form that go back to the roots of Jamaican heritage.

Rex has now passed the baton to a new generation of long-distance runners who have undoubtedly been infected by his contributions. As the company looks ahead,  members intend to dance boldly into the future carrying on the excellence that has been inspired by Rex and sustained collectively.

The NDTC’s performance of  ‘Tribute to Rex’ will take place on November 4, 2014 at the Sony Center in Toronto.

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