Described as one of the most innovative dance companies to have achieved world acclaim in the last half century, the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) of Jamaica blends the lore, music and dance traditions of Jamaica, Africa and the America South with both modern and classical ballet forms.
Formed as the island of Jamaica gained its independence from Great Britain in 1962, the Company shared its fiftieth anniversary with its home nation in 2012. The development and survival of the NDTC is the story of a voluntary action group operating continuously in a poor Third World country over a period of fifty years. The Company’s very existence is based on collaborative management as well as the dynamic interaction of all its participants, with creative skills and leadership being mutually reinforcing. This group has succeeded in making a strong impact on the cultural life of Jamaica.
Besides gaining an international reputation for dance performance through many international tours, the NDTC during five decades of continuous work by its highly skilled and dedicated members has spawned not only a distinctive Caribbean style of Caribbean dance-theatre but also a training system and a National School of Dance as well as a framework for community activities particularly in the area of traditional dance, which since 1960s has become an indispensable source for research into dance and folklore in general.
Its unpaid members, who have occupations as lecturers, lawyers, civil servants, and administrators among others, are dedicated to the view that their efforts in the area of dance-theatre will contribute to the task of nation building.
The original objectives of the NDTC were
1. To provide a vehicle for well-trained dancers and other dance-theatre artists, such as choreographers, composers and musicians who want to participate in the creation of works of excellence rooted on Jamaican and cultural realities;
2. To help create an informed Jamaican audience critically responsive to works of excellence in the theatre arts;
3. To experiment with various dance forms and techniques;
4. To develop a style and form that faithfully reflect Caribbean movement patterns;
5. To encourage serious research into the indigenous dance and music forms of Jamaica as well as the wider Caribbean.
Each objective has evidence of success. In a wider sense more has been achieved, for example the Inter-American Foundation, based in Washington, D.C. funded this cultural agent’s project in the establishment of Jamaica School of Dance and facilitated the development of the curriculum for the diploma programme as well as the core course of Caribbean studies at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston. In recognition of the special achievements of the NDTC, the Ford Foundation, based in New York, has funded the documentation of the Company’s work in the book Dance Jamaica. A second version was published in 2010.
The tours of the NDTC had taken the Company to all parts of the World, from Sadler’s Wells to the Theatre Royal in Sydney, Australia to Mexico City’s Palicio Belles Artes, to the Palace of Culture in Kiev. In the USA they have performed at the New York City Center Theater, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, at the Dade County Auditorium and the Guzman Theater in Miami, as well as many colleges and universities, including Howard University, Atlanta University, Temple University, Antioch College and the University of Hartford. The Company has also performed throughout the Caribbean, Canada, Europe, South and Central America and annual Season of Dance in Kingston, Jamaica (July/August).
The Guiding Principles for the NDTC:
1. Excellence: We strive for excellence, innovation and continuous improvement.
2. Honour: We demonstrate gratitude for the contributions of our members.
3. Artistry: We build on the Company’s legacy, celebrate our diversity and work inclusively to create meaningful experiences and works of art .
4. Communication: We are committed to clear and effective communication with all our stakeholders.
5. Transparency: We demonstrate our commitment to openness and trust in all our professional affairs.
6. Family: We promote a culture that is fair, supportive, caring, respectful and nurturing.
7. Integrity: We act always with honesty, accountability, and professionalism.