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BWW Review: Ringing in the New Year with DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM

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This past Thursday, Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) opened its doors to the community for an intimate gathering in their studios at the Everett Center of the Performing Arts on 152nd Street (between Amsterdam and St. Nicholas Avenues) to ring in the new year. As part of their Thursdays@DTH series, this evening's theme, Making Dance Communicate, consisted of an open rehearsal of two pieces and a conversation led by Artistic Director Virginia Johnson, with the incomparable Dianne McIntyre and the legendary Carmen de Lavallade.

The program began with a preview of the piece, Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven (Odes to Love and Loss). Originally choreographed by Ulysses Dove for the Royal Swedish Ballet in 1993, the dance had its DTH premiere in 2013. At the time Dove created this piece, he was going through a very difficult time in his life. Having lost 13 relatives and close friends, including his father, this was his way of coping with his loss. The company showcased the second section entitled "Friendship." It is a duet for two men, highlighting that nothing can come between their friendship, not even death. This was such a wonderful dance with lovely partner work. The dancers moved so swiftly and with such flexibility. This piece will be performed in its entirety Friday, January 15 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC).

The evening continued with a conversation with Virginia Johnson as she asked both Carmen de Lavallade and Dianne McIntyre how to make dance communicate with its audiences. Carmen talked about giving the body a reason to move and portray the emotions in the movement. From there, you can use that as your inspiration and motivation in the choreography. Dianne talked about the theme of her new work for the company to celebrate Black women and their achievements to society. One movement of the piece was inspired by the acapella choral group at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. She described how she was walking around the campus when she heard the group practicing. She thought it was so beautiful and wondered if there was a way to combine the talents of both the classically trained voices of the acapella group with the classically trained dancers of DTH.

McIntyre then gave a preview of two sections of the dance. This is such a powerful piece! This trio for three women was danced with such grace, elegance, and power. The dancers are inspired to carry the weight of those who came before them such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Raven Wilkinson, and Janet Collins, and how they themselves are the pioneers of today to pave the way for the future. This piece will have its world premiere on the company's tour at the University of South Carolina in February, and its New York premiere in April at the New York City Center.

Dance Theatre of Harlem is truly a gem for the neighborhood of Harlem, the Ballet world, and the African-American community. Be sure to check out the company on their U.S tour over the next several months! For more information, visit their website at www.dancetheatreofharlem.org.

Photo Credit: Caryn Cooper


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From This Author Caryn Cooper