The Astor Johnson Repertory Dance Theatre (AJRDT) of T&T–founded by the late dancer, artistic director, choreographer, and Hummingbird Gold Medal Awardee Astor Johnson–marks 50 years this year.
As part of its 50th Anniversary celebrations and in honour of Johnson, the group is having a dance event titled “For Astor–50th Anniversary” at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, on September 16, 17 and 18.
Looking from a wider window of dance through the eyes of Johnson, the group will “Awake his Legacy.”.
The AJRDT founder is recognised as one of the foremost Caribbean choreographers, and the work done by the dance theatre has received national and international acclaim.
Over the last seven years, the AJRDT has been focusing on highlighting the profound and timeless work of its founder to young people, the diaspora and the international community, through weekly classes and rehearsals of Johnson’s pieces, performances, symposia, the hosting of school workshops and social media exchanges.
The management team of The Astor Johnson Repertory Dance Theatre of T&T from left to right, Kyle Young, Terry Springer, Stephen Seepaul, Marlon Phillip. Seated from left to right, Susan Shurland, Joanna Charles, Allison Seepaul, and Roxanne Fung.
This upcoming production continues the mission to share Johnson’s work with the world by showcasing his choreography through generations of dancers committed to the company and his legacy.
Audiences will experience fully-staged remounts of works like “Stay Up, Zimbabwe”, “Graveyard For The Living”, “Fusion”, and sections of Astor’s Bob Marley suite, as well as the premiere of brand-new works by company members.
AJRDT Director Allison Seepaul said “Although Astor Johnson passed away in 1985, his work continues, it is timeless and has more relevance in today’s world.
“The objectives of the company remain the same; to continue research into our folkloric traditions, to expose our work nationally and internationally, and above all, to cement ourselves as a people through the medium of dance, our most natural form of self-expression.
“Members of the management team are also dancers as well, they are known in the field of dance performance and also education.
“Some of them are Roxanne Fung, Joanna Charles, Marlon Philip and Terry Springer. “
She said the group also had young dancers from the UTT and lead drummer Steve James, plus bands of drummers will also be performing at the three-day event.
Seepaul said that it was a team effort by members of the group to put on the show, including the technical coordinator responsible for lighting, sound, and management of the stage, Stephen Seepaul and other management team members such as Susan Shurland and Kyle Young.
Performer, choreographer, teacher, filmmaker and writer Sonja Dumas has been a performing member of AJRDT since 1986 wearing different hats such as artistic director, producer, and historian of the company responded that there are over 20 people in the group, the work of the choreographers will figure prominently in the shows.
Drummers from The Astor Johnson Repertory Dance Theatre of T&T.
She shared that Johnson’s choreography will be highlighted in much of the work that will be seen from his well-known and beloved classics, such as excerpts from Tribute To A King, which was choreographed after the death of Bob Marley.
Dumas continued Johnson’s other works such as “Graveyard For The Living”, which dealt with the perils of incarceration still relevant today, and a historical journey into the liberation of Rhodesia when it became Zimbabwe is highlighted in “Stay Up Zimbabwe.”
Regarding the all-time favourite “Fusion”, the company’s signature piece, she described it as a mixture of jazz styles and traditional African-Caribbean movements and was originally arranged by the late André Tanker.
“For Astor–50th Anniversary” performances at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s:
*School Show–Friday, September 16 from 10 am $50
*Gala/Performance night–Saturday, September 17 from 6 pm $250
*Performance night–Sunday, September 18 from 7 pm $150 For information and tickets, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org