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High 'Five' for Jamaica Dance Umbrella

Steven Cornwall and Lia Chin Yee in 'Consensus'

The fifth annual Jamaica Dance Umbrella closed to the sounds of Jonkunnu as the Ashe Company and Dance Theatre Xaymaca performed the opening suite of the 2012 musical Lift Up Jamaica. JDU added an interesting twist to this year’s line up in celebration of their fifth anniversary as the performances were the culmination of a week of workshops and discussions surrounding Caribbean. Itself almost a mini-dance festival. Jamaica Dance Umbrella is part of the Philip Sherlock Interantional Arts Festival.

Sunday afternoon featured a double dose of these events with back-to-back ‘Dance Dialogues: My Love Affair With Dance’ which in turn explored dance verbally and physically. Dance Dialogues were staged in collaboration with the Kingston Book Festival. The first of the two was a panel discussion featuring Barbara Requa, Monica DaSilva, Khama Phillips, L’Antoinette Stines, Maria Hitchins, Aisha Commissong.

Khama Phillips performs 'I Am'The panel had an animated discussion about their vision for dance as well as challenges facing dance in the Caribbean, including the absence of publishing opportunities, and the need to take the form more seriously. After the discussion, the JDU paid homage to Barbara Requa for her numerous years of contribution to the Jamaican dance landscape. The second dance dialogue featured a solo performance by Catherine Denecy, of Guadeloupe. Denecy’s 45-minute piece presented a journey to the self.

Sunday night’s closing performance saw The Company Dance Theatre, One Body One God Dance Ministries, University Dance Society, Dance Theatre Xaymaca, Kim-Lee Campbell, Khama Phillips, Dance JA and The Ashe Company take to the boards.

The Company Dance Theatre was the first to take the stage with their piece ‘Prisms’. The Company continues their trend of using very dramatic music which often threatens to overshadow the dance. ‘Prisms’ is a pretty piece but there appeared to be a disconnect between the movement, the music and the costumes as these tended to contradict rather than compliment each other. The Company’s two other presentations ‘Spectrum’ and ‘Consensus’ were far more successful. ‘Spectrum’ is a striking piece. The colour coded, simple costuming allows the choreography which makes heavy use of geometry to speak volumes. ‘Consensus’ is an intriguing duet performed by Steven Cornwall and Lia Chin Yee who delivered captivating performances.Janelle Stephenson adn Robyn Lee in 'Fragmented Transparency'

The University Dance Society’s Counter Dual was an interesting attempt, but alas was marred by the dancers’ inability to execute some of its more challenging movement. Reminiscent of Marlon Simm’s Millennial Beings, it features two dancers moving as counterpoint to each other. Coming after ‘Lifted’ and ‘Prisms’ it was however the first piece of the night to present dance as more than a pretty ornamental thing.

Kim Lee Campbell’s ‘Fragmented Transparency’ was another of the night’s interesting pieces. The duet, performed by Janelle Stephenson and Robyn Lee makes an intriguing statement about perspectives as you have to watch the dancers through dangling window panes which often present that view of fragmentation.

Dance JA The night was generally marked by great lighting which enhanced the mood, movement and overall aesthetic appeal of the pieces. Though some of the pieces were unremarkable,  Sunday night’s closing session was a varied fare presenting dance of various genres. The night marked the continued relevance of the Jamaica Dance Umbrella where one can see different genres of dance, from dancehall to gospel and many things in between, on a single stage. Indeed, in this there fifth anniversary, they deserve a high-five for their continued efforts to widen the reach and impact of the show.