Home » London Theatre Reviews » National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica – Curve, Leicester | Review

National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica – Curve, Leicester | Review

Controlled exuberance was the name of the game in this broad-ranging showcase presented by the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, as part of Let’s Dance International Frontiers 2024, or LDIF to regular attenders and participants, an annual festival in Leicester now in its fourteenth year that launches annually on 29 April, International Dance Day. The wider programme includes (amongst other things) films, workshops and networking opportunities for dance artists and performers. The NDTC, as the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica is known in the industry, carefully describes its members as ‘unpaid’ rather than ‘amateur’ – they work in financial services, the civil service, medicine, law, medicine, education and so on.

National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica.
National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica.

The varied history of Jamaica, from which the NDTC draws on, means the show begins by an invitation to the audience to stand to attention for ‘Jamaica, Land We Love’, the national anthem, and ends with ‘Kumina’, a twelve-and-a-half minute extravaganza with wave after wave of movements and costume changes. Kumina is a religion that came to Jamaica during the post-abolition era, and each Kumina community has a king and queen. Plenty of live drumming, as well as some singing, add extra levels of complexity and sophistication to a performance that recognises, acknowledges and celebrates its past.

A celebration of the past may seem a little odd at face value, but it becomes very clear very quickly that this is not about extolling whatever peripheral benefits there might have been to colonialisation. Instead, the performances are, individually and collectively, a fusion of the cultures and dances of the African slaves as well as their European masters. A curious piece looked to the future, where there is still much to do with regards to women’s rights – with female members of the company banding together to demonstrate, accompanied by a voiceover that wasn’t strictly necessary, that nobody needs to stand alone in the unrelenting task of combating life’s various challenges.

In the presentation of extracts from longer pieces comes the difficulty of trying to get one’s head around them without seeing the dances in all their fullness. Regardless, neither subtlety nor stillness are in their repertoire – when a video that might as well have been put together by Jamaica’s tourist board showed how wonderful life is there, the people in it were always up to something. Forget the image of people in the Caribbean sat on sun loungers sipping iced tea throughout the dry season. You can, it appears, swim in Jamaica’s waters without fear of getting into contact with raw sewage, which is more than can be said for polluted rivers in Blighty.

Anyway, with such a varied set of performances, there was something for almost everyone to enjoy. The NDTC’s enthusiasm was sufficiently infectious that there was a part of me that wanted to get up and join in – and I hate audience participation at the best of times. A vibrant and vigorous evening.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Beyond the stage, the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica is a symbol of unity, resilience and national pride.  The artists, drawn from various professions, bring a deep sense of commitment and passion to their art, embodying the spirit of Jamaica.  The company’s repertoire, honed over six decades, celebrates unique dance traditions of Jamaica, weaving together elements of reggae, dancehall, and traditional folk dances.

Friday 3 and Saturday 4 May, 7:45pm
Curve, Leicester



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