Remembering Rex - Dance teacher extraordinaire Barbara Requa to be honoured
On February 12, the Rex Nettleford Foundation will again be celebrating the life and legacy of the late co-founder of the National Dance Theatre Company, Professor Rex Nettleford, in ’Remembering Rex’.
Slated for The Little Theatre, in addition to dance and vocal performances, the foundation will also continue its mission of assisting talented students who will receive the Rex Nettleford Foundation, Cornwall College and Rex Nettleford Hall awards. An additional award will be presented this year – The Rex Nettleford Foundation Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts Scholarship.
This year’s celebration will also include a tribute to NDTC founding member and former dean of the School of Dance, Barbara Requa. Nettleford himself once referred to Requa as one of the true originals in the development of post-Independence Jamaican dance-theatre and dance education.
Requa grew up on the famed Appleton Estate, in St Elizabeth, where her father Henry Grant was a manager, and dreamed of a life in dance. While ballet was her first choice, she initially studied music for eight years.
While boarding at the St Andrew High School for Girls, Requa busied herself with her passions for dance and teaching, but would also dabble in choreography and stage weekend concerts.
After leaving high school, she joined the renowned Ivy Baxter School of Dance, where she met and became close friends with Rex Nettleford and Eddy Thomas. In 1955, she travelled to Dartford College of Physical Education, England, in pursuit of her dreams as a dance teacher. The programme allowed her the opportunity to study dance, under the tutelage of Valerie Preston-Dunlop (a student of the renowned Austrian Rudolph Laban), a relationship which resulted in her introduction to Laban’s principles and techniques for Dance in Education. On her return home she was invited to teach at her alma mater, St Andrew High School for Girls, as a physical education teacher and dance instructor.
Through Professor Nettleford, she became involved and performed with the National Pantomime for the 1959, 1960 and 1961 productions, culminating with a national tour to perform at Howard University. In 1967, she started a dance school for children in her garage, and the numbers grew quickly, leading her to join Sheila Barnett who had started her own school for adults. This became the Contemporary Dance Centre which would, in partnership with The Bert Rose School, become the Jamaica School of Dance under the auspices of the NDTC. This dance school would later become a division of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
In 1962, Requa was among 15 dancers who joined founders Rex Nettleford and the late Eddy Thomas in forming the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), which has gone on to worldwide acclaim.
She was also a founding member of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica; co-founder of the School of Dance, Edna Manley College; and a founding member of Dance & the Child International.
Though retiring as dean of the School of Dance in 2004, Requa remained a key figure in Jamaican dance education, continuing to teach two courses – Movement Studies and Dance Composition. She also continued to be an external adjudicator for the annual dance examinations. She has written a book titled Dance in Education – A Comprehensive Teachers’ Guide with a Caribbean Perspective, which she plans to revive and prepare for printing in the near future. She has also continued working with her School of Dance Alumni Fund which she started in 1998.
Requa’s legacy lives on as her two daughters and granddaughter were all promising dancers with the NDTC.