KINGSTON, Jamaica – Last week, creatives in Jamaica came together in Kingston to pay tribute to the late Barry Moncrieffe, a respected Dancer, Teacher and Designer.
Moncrieffe was a stalwart of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), joining its ranks in 1962, the same year the company was formed by Rex Nettleford and Eddy Thomas.
At the time, 19-year-old Moncrieffe joined the company as a supporting dancer, but within a few months, he became a full-time member and eventually, a principal dancer.
During his time as a dancer, Moncrieffe was pivotal in some of the NDTC’s best-known pieces including African Scenario, Court of Jah and The Crossing. While Nettleford and Thomas were the founders of the company, Moncrieffe was known as the creative visionary that helped to ascend the company to new heights. He appeared in many of the leading dance productions including pantomimes and annual dance showcases put on by the company. Under his tutelage, many young Jamaican dancers learned to hone their talents.
Before the NDTC, Moncrieffe studied with the Eddy Thomas Dance Workshop and the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York. He also graduated with honors from the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts’ School of Dance.
With the exception for three years as a teacher at Vassar College in New York, Moncrieffe was a fixture with the NDTC as lead dancer and artistic director. He assumed the latter role in 2010 following Nettleford’s death.
He also taught workshops across the Caribbean, in the Netherland Antilles, the USA, Hong Kong and Germany as a senior tutor at the Jamaica School of Dance.
He died on January 17 in Kingston at age 78 after a four-year battle with colon cancer.
On February 13, at his official memorial service held at the Little Theatre, Jamaican creatives, public figures, politicians and students at the Edna Manley College paid tribute to him.
Leader of the People’s National Party, Dr. Peter Phillips noted that it was Moncrieffe who was the artistic base to the company in the burgeoning years.
“Anyone who witnessed Barry Moncrieffe as he danced across a stage, could not be in any doubt that they were in the presence of an artistic genius. It would be futile to try to select which would be his best work, because there were so many and in each he displayed his inimitable and exquisite style. In each his languid movement and lyrical presence were always embedded in the distinctive rhythms of the Caribbean,” he noted.
Moncrieffe hung up his dancing shoes and retired in 2017, a year after his cancer diagnosis. His over 50-years of dedication to the NDTC had earned him the Order of Distinction, Jamaica’s sixth-highest national honor, in 2012. Adding to his legacy, the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange said the ministry will be offering a scholarship valued at $250,000, to a student at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in honour Moncrieffe.
Grange said the scholarship will remove barriers to higher education which Moncrieffe was committed to doing.