The promise of a new Dance Theatre of Harlem is more real. For their second season (April 23-27 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater), the company danced challenging and varied works with particular drive. They were (are) on a mission. Particularly outstanding was their performance of Ulysses Dove's contemporary work, Dancing On The Front Porch Of Heaven, a decidedly difficult ballet in that it is jam-packed with Dove's signature juxtaposing of modern dance styles, but en pointe. Bridging deep 2nd position pliés (legs wide and bent at the knees) with precision turns that end smoothly, is one example. The last section where each dancer begins or completes each other's movement sentence in solos that weave in and out of a large circle is another example, and it is especially lovely because they are able to finish big after this episodic and technically demanding work. Ingrid Silva, Ashley Murphy, Jenelle Figgins, Da'Von Doane, Samuel Wilson and Dustin James gave an exceptional performance. There were also the classics: Marius Petipa's Pas De Dix, and Swan Lake (Act III Pas de Deux) by Petipa and Nicholas Sergeyev. These ballets call for measured precision and breath all at once. Without doubt, the women, Silva, Figgins, Lindsey Croop, Stephanie Rae Williams, plus Murphy, partnered beautifully by Doane deliver what is necessary. New-comer Nayara Lopes melds the same precision and breath in Swan Lake with her smile, her form and her coyness which bring the splendor of the ballet to life. Gone are the ballet buns and classic tutus in Donald Byrd's Contested Space, as they switch gears, partnering or contorting their bodies with a sharper edge. Robert Garland's clever melding of social dance with classical ballet in New Bach and Return round out each program. Where else can we see Giselle-like walks (parallel, en pointe, dragging one leg in front of the other led by the hip), the hustle, the bump, the “Harlem Shake” and so much more, danced to Johann Sebastian Bach, James Brown and Aretha Franklin? Garland does this well and, especially in Return, the dancers deliver. Stay tuned for more from the new DTH!
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I am a performer, historian, consultant and dance writer. I am a faculty member at Hunter College, Sarah Lawrence College (Guest), Empire State College's online program Center for Distance Learning. I am also a former faculty member of The Ailey School and the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University dance major program, Kean University and The Joffrey Ballet School's Jazz and Contemporary Trainee Program. I write on dance for The Amsterdam News, Dance Magazine and various publications. Click below to read more about me at my home page - "About Me."