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Drumming & Movement Mark L'Acadco's 30th Anniversary

Hounfor of the Drum choreographed by Dr. L'Antoinette Stines

L’Acadco’s 30th season of dance, Waves of Pearls, is as much a statement on the development of dance in Jamaica as it is about the company itself. In its naming, The National Dance Theatre Company took as its mantle the task of exploring, developing and showcasing dance of national significance. Yet, although it doesn’t have the national in its name (it couldn’t very well have called itself the other national dance company) L’Acadco has tackled this mandate no less seriously.

Plus with L’Acadco you get all this glorious drumming from the aptly named Drum Xplosion. To enthusiastically misquote Edward Baugh, “It was the drumming,”  but of course, it was also the dancing, or more accurately, the choreography, as the pieces as a whole were generally more striking than the technique and of style of individual dancers.

Waves of Pearls showcased the breadth and depth of Amina Blackwood Meeks with her basket of patakis (stories)L’Acadco’s movement, their interrogation of social and political issues and a commitment to using dance built on an African and Jamaican vocabulary to do so.

Waves of Pearls featured pieces pulled from L’Acadco’s annals, largely from the group’s founder and artistic director Dr. L’Antoinette Stines, as well as new works from budding choreographers such as Jessica Shaw, Renee McDonald and Amanyea Stines, who represented themselves and an upcoming generation of talent well.

L’Acadco’s 30th season (June 28 - July 7, 2013) was an ambitious project with attempts to proffer up almost completely unique experiences each night. So between Saturday and Sunday nights (July 6 & 7) on which Susumba attended the performances at the Philip Sherlock Centre, the company presented 16 discrete dancing and/or drumming pieces.

Additionally, the dances were connected via narration and stories delivered by Amina Blackwood Meeks while the motif of journeying to gain access to the “pearl” was performed by Webster McDonald.

The presentations included Stines iconic ‘Satta’ (1984) which rests on reggae and rasta as a connection with the past. Indeed, Stines use of reggae to go far beyond expressions of revolution is one of the most important aspects which she has brought to the elaboration of a Jamaican dance vocabulary. In ‘Body Ridims’ (1995) the dance is populated by movements of the street highlighting movement as a marker of identity. 'L'Antech Meets Reggae' choreographed by Dr. L'Antoinette Stines

‘L’Antech Meets Reggae’ (2011) continues in that vein. The dance’s first movement is a sensual exploration of the music and movement. The second movement seems to lose some of its poignance, but that might in part because the costuming of the lead dancer contrasted against the mood of the music.

Through 'Bouyaka Bouyaka' we journey back to the early 1990s for a slice of dancehall, with a dance that presents a captivating snapshot of the high drama that takes place in the big yard is elaborated into song and comes booming from the speaker towers of the dancehall.

'Bouyaka Bouyaka' choreographed by Dr. StinesStines 2013 pieces are also not to be ignored, ‘Abuzuike’ an extensive piece was a fine dramatic work enhanced by creatively designed and executed costumes. ‘Quilted Memories’ is an engaging and dramatic piece.

The young guest choreographers significantly helped in varying the fare. Jessica Shaw’s ‘Breathe’ was an enjoyable, energetic piece which marks her as a choreographer to watch. Amanyea Stines stepped out well with ‘Our Tango’, a wonderful re-interpretation of one of the sexiest dances alive which she uses to explore the sex trade.

Renee McDonald’s ‘Stages of Love’ brought much needed lightness to the repertoire. The dance was wonderfully executed by Amanyea Stines and Orane Frater, a dancer who has shown tremendous growth over the past few year. ‘Stages of Love’ was all flight and fancy. It was earnest and sweet and thoroughly enjoyable.

(l-r) Reuel Phillips, Shane Blake, Aaron Vereen, and Stephan Sinclair as the drummers bring sweet rhythms and high dramaAnd then there was the drumming...

And then there was the drumming...

Drum Xplosion has become a core part of L’Acadco’s performances bringing both vibrant arrangements and their own brand of dramatic performances. With their massive sound encased in the Phillip Sherlock Centre, it threatened to destroy eardrums, but it was worth every second of it.

Ahhh, it was the drumming...