DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM-When Love
April 9, 2016
Dance Theatre of Harlem’s program this season showcases an enviable diversity of repertory – some ballet companies stick to themes or single choreographer evenings, which make it more challenging to appeal to broad audiences. But eclecticism can be risky…
In Divertimento (2016, music by Glinka) beloved teacher, repetiteur, choreographer (and former Mikhailovsky principal) Elena Kunikova created a tricky classical showcase for three couples, with plenty of amusing references to the classical repertoire. Although a bit academic – at times the dancers looked like they were executing combinations in class – Kunikova deployed an unusual structure and imaginative transitions between section while challenging the dancers’ classical technique. This cast seemed a bit tentative and in need of more time to sharpen their footwork and transitions, although Anthony Savoy showed spark with his buoyant and razor-sharp jumps.
Helen Pickett’s When Love (2012) was beautifully danced by Chyrstyn Fentroy and Jorge Andres Villarini. A duet that joyfully exudes the feeling of young people in love, to music and text by Philip Glass, they dance together, and then for each other, with the innocence and playful feel of a contemporary Romeo and Juliet. Fentroy’s artistry continues to grow with each season: it is easy to become absorbed in her ability to inflect any material she is given with quality and meaning.
In Change (2016), choreographer Dianne McIntyre celebrates “Black, Brown, and Beige” women for being “warriors for change,” according to the program notes. Danced to traditional music recorded by the Spelman College Glee Club, and original music Eli Fountain, three gorgeous women, with big hair and strong wills, managed choreography that was meant to aggressively showcase their beauty and strength but was frequently awkward. We see this as they yell out while dancing – a difficult feat that sometimes went from a bark to a whimper – or in the ambiguous ending – an unintended irony in a dance made to honor women of color.
A quote from Sam Melville, a political activist prisoner who died in a riot at Attica in 1971, is relentlessly repeated in Frederic Rzweski’s minimalist score Coming Together that accompanies Nacho Duato’s 1991 choreography of the same name. It begins with a dancer facing upstage in a downspot, pointing to his brain as we hear the words, “I think…” while a mysterious El Lissitzky-style yellow triangle is suspended on a black backdrop. From then on, we witness a veritable riot of dancing, with athletic jumps, turns, partnering, and a trio of women reminiscent of the Supremes dance in front of a gold curtain. Although a deeper connection between the dancing and the text isn’t made clear, we can’t help but be swept away by the sheer stamina and propulsive energy of the DTH dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson