Remembering Dancer Phillip McClintock, MS – by Francis Quamina Farrier
September 8, 2016, was the thirtieth anniversary of the death of the great Guyanese Dancer, Phillip McClintock, MS. Since his passing on September 8, 1986, the excitement of the Kathak dance, of which he was a master, has not been quite the same, here in Guyana. That is so, not only because of Phillip’s grand command of this particular Indian dance, but also because at that same period, there was another great Kathak dancer, the late Gora Singh. The two young dancers brought not a rivalry, but a fusion to the stage which they shared so many times, as they danced to very appreciative audiences.
For those who thronged the National Cultural Centre to enjoy Phillip and Gora on stage, not competing with each other, but embellishing the exciting Indian dances, especially the KATHAK, as they twirled and twirled and twirled, and members of the audience counted loudly, and applauded and cheered. It was dance at its brilliant best, embellished with fantastic costumes and enrapturing Indian melodies.
Somehow, although Gora Singh was really good and received much admiration for his dancing abilities, Phillip somehow, almost always stole the show. He was as good as, and arguably, better than Gora; at least all of his many adoring fans thought so.
The thing about Phillip McClintock, was that he was of African heritage, yet he dominated the dance stage of Guyana for over a decade in the 1970s and into the mid-1980s. He was so much admired that as a young dancer of African Heritage, and talented to perform such a wide range of international dances, especially the Indian dances; the KATHAK, in particular; he was at the very top of his game.
As the fame of Phillip McClintock grew, over a relative short period, he was invited by the Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, to go to India and learn the history and other finer points of Indian Dance. Phillip accepted, and was given special leave from his position as an Account’s Clerk at the Ministry of Home Affairs. During the four years he studied in India, Phillip McClintock did Guyana proud, performing at many shows in that country, as he specialized in the Kathak. He also became fluent in the language.
On his way back to Guyana, Phillip spent a short period in London, England. There he was invited by fellow Guyanese, Henry Muttoo, who was studying theatre there, to perform at the popular Kiskadee Club. It was a cultural shock for the audience, most of whom were of Caribbean heritage, to see a young man of African Heritage, so talented in the Indian dance. They wanted him to spend a longer time in London and do more shows.
Phillip McClintock returned to Guyana, having received many accolades, and was as humble as ever. He received the National Award of the Medal of Service, among others. Sadly, his life was rather short; he died at age thirty three. However, for those who saw and can remember Phillip McClintock on stage at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown, and at other venues around the country, will no doubt, still remember the excellence of this African Guyanese who dominated the Indian Dance stage, over thirty years ago. I have not been able to trace any film or video of Phillip dancing, but hope that there is such somewhere available.