I received an invitation from a friend inviting me to the Edna Manley School of Dance Faculty in Concert titled “Physical Labrish…Reflections of the Moving Mind”.
For my international readers the word ‘labrish’ in the Jamaican culture means to gossip or to chitchat.
When I received the invitation I made up my mind in earnest to attend this concert. One, I have not been to many and since I am free why not? That same evening I had a group meeting for my Supervisory Management course which was near the dance school. I was late because of my group meeting but I could not miss it. I literally ran to the venue, paid the entry fee and walked right in, head upright as if I were early.
Looking back, I have been to a concert at Edna Manle before but it was in a different studio. The Dennis Scott Studio the venue for the concert was exquisite. I liked the interior, very modern. It made their presentation look credible. They utilised a huge projector and lighting to enhance their routines, which was pleasing to the eye. I will not continue to describe the aesthetic appeal but just to say, the stage without the dancers was good.
The faculty concert was dedicated to the late Professor the Honourable Rex Nettleford, O.M., O.C.C., F.I.J., who has been integral to the dance community in Jamaica and the Caribbean region. He was a Jamaican Scholar, choreographer and Vice-Chancellor Emeritus at the University of the West Indies. In 1963 he founded the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, a respected ensemble which he led until he passed away.
Of the pieces I saw I could not decide on a favourite. I loved all of them. They each had something that you could connect with and appreciate.
To begin with the show had to be good. The dancers are lecturers in their field at the dance institution. How can they fail?
One of my favourites of the night was a piece entitled “Today and Tomorrow” choreographed by Arsenio Andrade-Calderon. It was very short but essentially he prepared for the rain. He sat on stage on a chair with his umbrella while dancers walked on stage opening water bottles one by one and pouring the liquid on his umbrella. It was a very reflective piece. After the pouring of the water which signified the rain he then closed the umbrella and walked out signalling the rain had ended – tomorrow.
I thought the piece could have been better presented if better use of the lighting was done. To signal the clouds and the initial preparations for the rain, the set could have been dark while brighter lights could signal the tomorrow which came after the dark moments. However the interpretation, the point was made.
The concert ended with everyone laughing. The final piece entitled”Of Tensions and Dilemma” brought to life through dance the struggles the lecturers encounter in their normal day-to-day activities as dance facilitators. The choreography began with teachers in traffic and the drama that comes with that – horrible bus drivers, persons walking on the streets etc. If you take public transportation you can appreciate it but more so Jamaican public transportation. The piece was hilarious, it included the struggles teachers go through with administration issues and student lackadaisical attitudes to education.
I could not end without telling you about my favourite Jamaican dancer, Neila Ebanks. She danced in many pieces at the concert but the two I enjoyed her in were entitled “The Edging of Sister Mitzie Margeret” and “Their work song…a moving musical soundtrack for making it through”. The Edging of Sister Mitzie Margeret was an excellent piece in terms of its production and execution. It began with Neila Ebanks on a video presentation and her obsessive compulsive behaviour to edgings/lines. The video presentation showed her entering the dance studio which was cut to show her continue her compulsive behaviour on stage. This piece showed some thought went on into its production. Leaving the stage the video presentation continued with her leaving the studio and Sister Mitzie Margeret continuing her behaviour on the outside (on video).
Based on the attendee’s reactions the concert was well received. The concert ran for the full weekend. I was their on the final night – Sunday and it was almost full house. Only some seats were empty (limited) which I think the organizers can take some compliments. I will be attending more Dance Concerts here – the quality is good.
However, I think the dancers here should take care of themselves. Jamaica has a culture where we think fat is attractive and in terms of dancing, the shapes and lines are so important that leading a healthy lifestyle is imperative to the visual senses. As I mentioned before I was not there for the beginning of the show and was aware of any states rules. I took my camera to take pictures. During the show I noticed no one was taking photos apart from the official media team. I did not want to be reprimanded so I did not. However, I snapped a private camera phone shot and after that I noticed the persons beside me started to tape the show. This was at the end. After that, I took out my digital camera to snap the photos you see below. I am happy I did. The teachers gave a good show. I am happy the students have good role models to follow.