Bringing Jamaica to UK audiences | interview with Marlon D. Simms

National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC) is making its first UK visit in over ten years, headlining the Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) festival at Curve, Leicester.

Founded in the spirit of Jamaica’s independence in 1962 the company is known for its mesmerising rhythms and vibrant movements. The company’s repertoire celebrates the dance traditions of Jamaica by fusing together reggae, dancehall and traditional folk dances.

Appointed in 2018, artistic director Marlon D. Simms has performed and toured internationally with the company. As part of the LDIF programme, NDTC will be performing Simms’ work Introspection created last year and Kumina, which was created by dance pioneer and co-founder of the company, Rex Nettleford, over 50 years ago.

Q: Are you excited about coming to Leicester to perform at LDIF?

Marlon: Absolutely!  Returning to the UK after over a decade is truly thrilling, especially to perform for the Diaspora. It’s a heart-warming experience to reconnect with those who’ve been away for so long, not just from Jamaica, but from the wider Caribbean community. Sharing our authentic culture is a passion of ours, whether it’s with individuals unfamiliar with Jamaica and the Caribbean or with those who have only glimpsed it through social media.  The opportunity to showcase Jamaican excellence through the NDTC’s work is immensely inspiring, as it instills hope and pride in others who recognize the richness of our culture through our art.

Q: The company will be performing some wonderful pieces – what’s your favourite?

Marlon: Kumina holds a special place in my heart due to its ancestral significance and being one of my favourite traditional dance forms. The live music, choreography structure, and exploration of musicality created by our beloved past artistic director and co-founder, Rex Nettleford, in 1971, create an extraordinary experience. Every time I perform the role of the Kumina King, which Prof himself had originally danced for many years, it brings back memories of his mentorship and the honour I feel in passing on this legacy to the next generation.

Q: You performed the solo Introspection at LDIF in 2023 – how was it?

Marlon: It was a fantastic experience filled with tremendous support from Pawlet Brookes and the staff of Serendipity Institute for Black Arts and Heritage, everyone at Curve as well as fellow performers.  The overwhelming response to the performance, and the opportunity to share a part of Jamaica’s culture, my own work, and the NDTC made it truly phenomenal.  I’m very much looking forward to re-presenting my piece at this year’s festival, although I shan’t be dancing it myself! 

Marlon D Simms.

To find out more and book tickets visit here.