Remembering Maestro Eduardo Rivero-Walker, Former Artistic Director of Cuba's Leading Modern Dance Company
Article published in the Jamaica Gleaner
The passing of Eduardo Rivero-Walker, the adopted Jamaican dancer, legendary Afro-centric modern dance choreographer and artistic director of Cuba's leading modern dance company Compañía Teatro Dela Danza Del Caribe de Santiago, has left the dance community in shock.
Rivero-Walker's passing has also left a void among members of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC) and the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble.
In fact, the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble's 19th Season of Dance - which is scheduled to run at the Little Theatre from November this weekend - will be paying tribute to Rivero-Walker's work as choreographer and teacher.
"His passing has given heightened significance to his entrusting to us his choreographic work Toromato," said Dr MoniKa Lawrence, artistic director and founder of the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble. Lawrence worked closely with Rivero-Walker - first as a dancer with the NDTC, and subsequently with the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble, where he taught."Eduardo is a cultural icon," declared Dr Lawrence.
"His rich legacy in the arts will unquestionably live on. We owe a debt of gratitude for his varied contribution to the arts in Jamaica. He will surely be missed by the world of dance theatre," she said.
Rivero-Walker also gained the respect of founder of NDTC and dance icon, the late Rex Nettleford.
In fact, it was Nettleford who "discovered" him and his Yoruban-based technique while on a visit to Cuba in the 1970s. So impressed was Nettleford that he invited Rivero-Walker to visit Jamaica in 1978 as a guest choreo-grapher with the NDTC.
That visit to the island led to a fruitful collaboration and a long-term creative exchange between both companies: Compañía Teatro Dela Danza Del Caribe de Santiago, NDTC - and Edna Manley School of Dance.
Rivero-Walker was renowned for incorporating the Yoruban-based technique, which celebrated the beauty and virility of the African body, as well as the lifestyle of the Yoruban people, into his dances.
This technique is summed up in his seminal piece Sulkari, which he created while a principal dancer and choreographer for Danza Nacional de Cuba. He bequeathed that piece to the NDTC in 1979-80.
Sulkari celebrates fertility and the continuity of man as inspired by details of African sculptures and artefact, as well as the movement of the Yoruba people of Dahomey, Africa.
In fact, Sulkari enjoyed a remount in the recently concluded NDTC Jamaica 50 Season of Dance.
In addition to Sulkari,Rivero-Walker also passed on to the NDTC hisOkontomi and Romance, while NDTC shared with the Compañía del Caribe Nacional de Santiago (Rivero-Walker's first company) Nettleford'sThe Crossing; Carson Cumberbatch's Cry of the Spirit and Bert Rose's Steal Away.
Barry Moncrieffe, artistic director of NDTC, remembers Rivero-Walker, whose mother was Jamaican, "not only as a teacher, dancer and choreographer, but also as a close friend".
The bonds between NDTC and Rivero-Walker's dance company were further strengthened when two lead dancers of Compañía Teatro Dela Danza Del Caribe de Santigao -Arsenio Andrade-Calderon and Abeldo 'Toki' Gonzalez-Fonseca - joined the NDTC in 1995 and served for many years as principal dancers.
Gonzalez-Fonseca, who currently serves as ballet master for the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble, describes Rivero-Walker as an inspirational mentor and teacher who was proud of his African roots and Cuban nationalism.
"In Cuba, Eduardo is to dance what Rex Nettleford is to dance in Jamaica. His legend and legacy will live on through his dances and his teaching," he said.
Rivero-Walker died of lung cancer in Santiago, Cuba, on November 2. He was 77 years old.