Richard Johnson (Jamaica Observer) asks, “Who will head the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC)?” Jamaicans will have to wait until January to find out who the new artistic director will be. This follows the retirement of Barry Moncrieffe, who served in that capacity following the sudden death of co-founder Professor Rex Nettleford in 2010.
All eyes are pointing to the current associate artistic director, principal dancer Marlon Simms, but neither Moncrieffe nor Simms was willing to confirm who will be named to that position when contacted by the Jamaica Observer. According to Moncrieffe, who began dancing with the company shortly after it was founded by Nettleford and Eddy Thomas in 1962, there is a board of management and there has to be due process. “The company is run by a board headed by Milton Samuda, so I cannot speak about who will be my successor at this time,” he stated. “That will be announced in January. We are having an event early next year and the new artisic director of the NDTC will be announced then,” he said.
The Sunday Observer understands that Simms has already been named artistic director designate; however, when contacted he referred this newspaper to the outgoing holder of the position, Moncrieffe, or chairman of the board Samuda. “It is not for me to say. That would have to come from Mr Moncrieffe or Mr Samuda,” Simms stated.
A former dance captain at the NDTC, Simms was appointed associate artistic director in 2014, and in an interview at that time he stated that he wanted to maintain the standard of the decades-old company. “I’ve got big shoes to fill. It means building on a legacy, strategising, expanding, sharing, creating, encouraging teamwork… it’s so many things, it’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time, but it’s still a wonderful honour,” he said. “We just want to keep up the excellence… sustaining what the NDTC has built and is known for. You tend to always want to top yourself, but the truth is, how can you top excellence?” he declared then.
Simms joined the company in 1999 after coming into contact with then principal dancer Arlene Richards. He would then receive an invitation to join the NDTC. Simms never danced publicly until he was a fourth former in high school when a female member of the school’s dance troupe needed a male partner. This ignited his passion for dance which was cemented during his years at The University of the West Indies, Mona, as a member of the Dance Society. In addition to his work with the company, Simms is the assistant director of the School of Dance at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
Speaking of his retirement, Moncrieffe said he is comfortable with state in which the company is at this time, but urged his successors to maintain the core of the company. “I have been ready for retirement for a while. I just had to make sure certain things were in place. I am satisfied with how the company is being run. I know things will change because that is the nature of what we do, but I urge them to keep it Jamaican. That Jamaican flavour has to be present in the NDTC,” noted Moncrieffe.