April 8, 2016

Dance Theater of Harlem - Divertimento, Change and Return

Dance Theater of Harlem returned to City Center for their NY appearance this year.

What I love about this company is that they never forget that they are a Neoclassical BALLET company.  And this aim is carried through all of their repertoire including their newly commissioned works.  No matter how modern it gets, DTH never allows toe shoes and classical training to be forgotten or ignored.  I also think it helps that one of the most beautiful ballerinas of the 20th century, Virginia Johnson, is protecting the flame at DTH.

The company troupe is smaller than what it was before their hiatus.  But that doesn't stop their ambitious projects.  It is also a more mixed company with an eclectic mix of dancers of all races. However its aim to promote black artists has not faltered.

My favorite dancer of the night was Ingrid Silva.  Maybe I'm a bit biased because I'm a short person, but Silva sparkles among the tall girls.  She is pretty, sprightly and graceful.  I've noticed tall dancers have more balance wobbles and slower reaction times.  This doesn't mean I don't think they are beautiful.  The long classical line of tall dancers is lovely.  Which is why they are so popular to cast.  However the loveliness comes with the impediment of slow movement.  Tall dancers just can't pull their limbs in quick enough and the rare dancers who could (Merrill Ashley) are few and far between.  There is a wholeness to how Ingrid Silva (and other small dancers) moves.  You can actually see the choreographic through line of the steps on her body.  Simply because she is not composed of long, wavering limbs but a compact, no nonsense whole.  I really wish ballet would come back to the norm of smaller dancers.  They simply move better, freer and the steps aren't bisected by out of control body parts.

The opening night began with Elena Kunikova's Divertimento.  Chyrstyn Fentroy and Lindsey Croop were substituted for Alison Stroming and Silken Kelly.  I was a bit disappointed that Alison Stroming was not performing that night.  I follow her youtube channel and was looking forward to seeing her dance.  However Fentroy was beautiful.  The choreography was a classical tribute to all the great ballets.  It was great to see all the dancers very careful to be classically rounded in the arms not jazzy neoclassical.  There is a prevalence today for pointy elbows and claw hands in dancers today that is simply awful to look at as a ballet fan.

The next standout to me was Change choreographed by Dianne McIntyre.  Which was a tribute to DTH and minority women.  It was a lovely mix of classical and folk dance.

The highlight was Return choreographed by Robert Garland and set to contemporary music of James Brown, Aretha Franklin etc.  The style was an exciting mix of just regular dancing and classical ballet.  It was distinctly an audience favorite.  The only caveat I had with the ballet were the costumes for the women.  They looked like bikini bathing suits with little skirts attached to them (see above photo).  Now, I'm not a prude but I'm baffled by this costume trend to revealing the bodies of female ballet dancers sans tights/leotards.  Seeing ripped musculature of the dancers goes against the grain of the art form.  Also I'm not a fan of also witnessing bruises and scrapes garnered in the pursuit of the art.  Yes, I know female ballet dancers are only human.  But I don't need personal verification that even the skinniest of dancers has wobbly bits on her body.  Despite the questionable costumes, I loved this ballet.

If you the time, get tickets for the last few performances of this great company.

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