BWW Review: NYC Season Ends with a Bang with Dance Theatre of Harlem
The legendary Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) returned to their "stage home" for their annual NYC season at the New York City Center, April 19-22, 2017. Some highlights of the season included a special performance by Grammy-Winning Recording Artist India.Arie, NY and DTH premieres by Robert Garland, Francesca Harper, and José Limón, and the return of other favorites by Dianne McIntyre and Darrell Grand Moultrie.
On the evening of April 22nd, the program opened with Vessels by Darrell Grand Moultrie, a former member of DTH. The piece is divided into four sections- Light, Belief, Love, and Abundance. It is based on the idea that a journey is cyclic and that we should all be infused with something beautiful that can be transferred to others. It was just delightful. The dancers were flawless as they moved with such grace across the stage. The duets and partner work throughout the piece were amazing. Excellent piece.
The program continued with a special tribute to the beloved Glen Tetley. Mr. Tetley is one of the most renowned choreographers of the 20th century. He has created over 50 ballets for a number of major ballet companies such as DTH, American Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the Netherlands Dance Theatre, among others. Artistic Director Virginia Johnson, former DTH Dancer Charmaine Hunter, and dance icon Carmen de Lavallade, all spoke about their experience working with the late Mr. Tetley. It was an honor and privilege to hear them all speak on the same stage on the same evening! As part of the tribute, they showcased small excerpts from his piece Voluntaries, performed by special guests Allisyn Hsieh Caro and Carl Coomer of the Texas Ballet Theatre, and Greening, performed by special guest and former DTH dancer Caroline Rocher, in addition to a new production of Mr. Tetley's Dialogues. He brings a certain kind of fire into his choreography that I have never seen before. It was just fabulous. I didn't take my eyes off the stage because I didn't want to miss a single second!
The show concluded with Return, by Robert Garland. This was a fun piece that fused elements of classical ballet with street and urban physicalities. What made this particularly unique, was that the dance was performed to music by the great James Brown and Aretha Franklin! I was curious how this would work, as it is not music that is traditionally danced to in ballet shoes. But, to my pleasant surprise, it worked very well! I particularly loved the duet section performed to "Call Me" by Ms. Franklin. The choreography was taken to a new level that I thoroughly enjoyed.
DTH is such a special company that is near and dear to my heart. Founded by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook in 1969, in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the company has changed the face of ballet. Now in its fifth decade, the troupe has become a multi-cultural institution for artistic excellence that has and continues to touch audiences here in NYC and around the world.
The company has come a long way since its early beginnings and especially since the dark times of the company's eight-year hiatus. Due to financial hardships, DTH was forced to suspend its ensemble. With the current threats to federal funding for the arts and humanities, that may be a surreal reality to the field. Even if the cuts do come to fruition, we can't allow companies like DTH, among other great institutions, to become victims of this administration. We need to continue to show our support for the arts. It was amazing to see such a packed house at City Center for the company and we need to continue to show our support for this company, for this field, for this country.
DTH Jorge Villarini and Chyrstyn Fentroy in "Dialogues" Photo by Nanette Melville