Jan 29, 2007

The National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica tours S. Florida

The dancers will leap impossible heights, shimmy around the stage to rhythms heavy on drums, the musical heartbeat of the African Diaspora. The National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica -- a decidedly younger, more energized troupe -- will make its first appearance at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in a one-night benefit performance next month. The performance at such a major venue demonstrates the growing clout of the 100,000-plus Jamaican community in South Florida, said Eddy Edwards, a board member of Jamaica Awareness Inc., a main organizer of the event. This is ''the beginning of bigger things for the community, a growing opportunity to showcase more Jamaican cultural presentations at this level,'' Edwards said. Proceeds will go to the Jamaica Diaspora Foundation, launched three years ago by former prime minister P.J. Patterson to connect Jamaicans living oversees and those on the island through projects like voter registration drives, a youth and leadership forum for second-generation Jamaicans, and the development of a disaster preparedness plan for the Jamaican community in the event of any catastrophes on the island. Funds also will be used immediately to help the group set up an office and a website, said Marlon Hill, the Jamaican Diaspora advisory board member for the southern United States. The performance will continue a 45-year tradition: using dance to entertain and connect the community. ''Many people think that our popular culture is only reggae, but the quality of our dance company can stand up against Alvin Ailey, the Dance Theatre of Harlem,'' said Sydney Roberts, president of the Broward-based Jamaica Awareness Inc., a nonprofit arts and cultural group. Roberts calls the NDTC an ``iconic institution of Jamaican culture and heritage around the world.'' Many in the local Jamaican community grew up on the island attending seasonal performances of the NDTC troupe, a colorful, high-energy collection of dances often defined by the popular Kumina led by Rex Nettleford, the company's founding director. The performance will feature new works, among them: Katrina on the devastating hurricane, and Ode, a tribute to Bob Marley. Marley's daughter, Miami resident Cedella Marley. The community's nostalgic connection to the troupe ignited the idea for the benefit, said Hill. ''The NDTC has an emotional connection that brings Jamaicans together,'' Hill said. ``They were the perfect choice to galvanize the community and spread the word of the diaspora movement.'' The Feb. 10, performance kicks off a week of cultural celebrations, including the exhibit Port Royal, Jamaica at the Historical Museum of South Florida. The exhibit will feature artifacts from the city, many of which were lost in a devastating 1692 earthquake. Edwards of Jamaica Awareness hopes the performance will attract other South Florida communities. ''The language of dance is universal so this will [also] give Jamaicans a chance to bring their non-Jamaican friends to show how good they are,'' Edwards said. source:miami.com

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