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BWW Reviews: Dance Theater of Harlem Lit Up Jazz at Lincoln Center

On Friday, April 25th, the new Dance Theater of Harlem, now in its second year, presented three ballets. Pas De Dix, a set of dances taken from the last act of the full-length ballet Raymonda, choreography by Marius Petipas and originally staged for DTH by Frederic Franklin, offered this young company the opportunity to delve into the world of the classics. The dancers worked diligently to execute the steps and the feeling required for such a work. In the second variation Nayara Lopes was fresh and sweet, while Linsey Croop demonstrated qualities both strong and cute in the in the fourth variation. In general, however, while potential was evident, the dancers lack the experience and maturity to make the most of this ballet. I expect that in a few years they will be giving more assured, even exciting performances.

Past-carry-forward, choreography by Tanya Widerman-Davis and Thaddeus Davis, which had its premiere Oct. 17, 2013 was marvelously engaging. The choreographers "have created a work that considers the legacy of the great migration of African Americans from the agrarian South to the industrial North in the early part of the 20th century." Not only was the story clear via the music of Willie "The Lion" Smith and SLIPPAGE (Thomas F. DeFranz and Jamie Keesecker), but the dramaturgy of T.F. DeFranz, costumes by Charles Hertchew, and lighting of Peter Jakubowski and Peter D. Leonard were precisely what was called for to enhance this choreography,

The dancing was superb. Every dancer, including four who had danced in Pas De Dix, understood every nuance of this work; and this translated easily to the audience. The use of the classical vocabulary combined with contemporary inspiration and beautiful dancing made this ballet one of my favorite ballet-going experiences in recent times. This piece gives me great hope for the future of this company.

Gloria, choreographed by Robert Garland to the music of Poulenc, was like a moving painting of turquoise and chartreuse hues. "It stands as a tribute to the history and the rich cultural legacy that still abides in the community of Harlem." While this piece was not as technically consistent as the previous ballet, it was greatly improved over the performance given during City Center's Fall For Dance 2013, where I first viewed it.

This new incarnation of Dance Theater of Harlem, under the direction of former DTH principal dancer Virginia Johnson, shows promise of good things to come. I'm excited to watch the development of this company. Only time will tell.

photo credit: Matthew Murphy

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From This Author Marjorie Liebert