DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM
April 9, 2018
Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) offered a vibrant celebration of three main references from European, American, and Caribbean Hindustani heritage interwoven into a unique program. Like in a rare quilt eloquently modeled by the company’s lineage, the pieces comprised Valse Fantaisie, Le Corsaire, Harlem on My Mind, and Dougla.
Leading the program, DTH traced European ballet repertoire, consonant with the works Arthur Mitchel developed through his early career as a principal dancer at NYCB. Valse Fantaisie, a neoclassical representation of Mikhail Glinka’s score created by Balanchine in 1953, had its DTH première last February, staged by Deborah Wingert. A graceful ballerina quartet attired in emerald green romantic tutu gowns decorated the scene for a pleasing pas de deux by Crystal Serrano and Jorge Andrés Villarini. Under the guidance of Caridad Martínez, Ingrid Silva and Da´Von Doane, DTH’s version of Le Corsaire’s pas de deux was staged by Karel Shook in the 70s.
Harlem on My Mind showcased the expressive pizzaz and individuality of the company members in consonance with the multinational rhythms surrounding the company’s home. Inspired by the liveliness of Jazz, Darrell Grand Moultrie depicted the eclectic moves characteristic of the tunes he grew up with meshing hip figure-eights, shoulder shrugs, or wrist flicks, classical jazz discourse, and ballet pettit allegro, within contemporary dance.
The opening segment, “Out and About” introduced the dynamic five-duet ensemble dressed in simple but radiant short unitards and leotards with flowing silk skirts in fuchsia, accented by patterns combining tones of gray and purple. Anthony Santos’ oozing movement quality and charisma captured the young audience triggering contagious giggles that turned into complacent laughter during the second section, “Harlem´s Finest.” Amanda Smith and Jorge Andrés Villarini embellished the scene with elongated gesture brush strokes, spiced by flair in “Duo de Jazzin.” Commanding the stage, Stephanie Rae Williams brought in the audience into a reflective “Soul of the ‘Hood’” before the ensemble returned displaying a plethora of air-bound portés in the joyous finale “We Rise,” which resumed in canon as the curtain closed for intermission.
The majestic revival of Dougla closed the evening. With original choreography, costume designs, and music by Geoffrey Holder extracted from his Trinidadian heritage, the 1974 work was reconstructed under the supervision of Leo Holder. Embodying its title, Dougla represented an amalgam of Indian, South Asian and African cultures in the Caribbean.The company left patrons in awe as the curtain rose revealing a community planted in a dignified stance dressed in lavish white costumes with red accents and headpieces. The music ensemble’s resonating drums enlarged the sound of the wooden staffs carried by the males leading the community´s journey, augmented by the ankle rattles as “Douglas People” went through their stately procession. A watercolor-like painted cycle narrating cycles of moon and sun hovered the stories of the “Woman in Green,” “Women in Black,” a couple, a Stickman, and acrobats, closing with the entire company in a grand finale ceremony.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada