4/12/19 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY: Alicia Graf and Donald Willams Perform Return (Dance Theatre of Harlem)

Dance Theatre of Harlem former principal dancers Alicia Graf and Donald Williams perform Robert Garland’s Return Continue reading

12/5/17 O&A NYC DANCE: A Conversation With Michael Jackson Jr.

By Walter Rutledge

Michael Jackson, Jr. has spent his career working in the Black dance genre. The gifted dancer, choreographer, teacher, and this season’s Ailey “poster God” began his dance training at age 14 at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. under the direction of Charles Augins. His irrepressible curiosity, athletic physique and pliant musculature help Jackson Jr. quickly excel. Continue reading

5/2/17 O&A NYC DANCE REVIEW: Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) presented their annual New York City season April 19, 20 and 21 at New York City Center. The performances marked the sixth season since the company’s much anticipated return after a seven-year hiatus. This new re-configured DTH, under the artistic direction of former company principal dancer Virginia Johnson, continues to mature into a new and important dance voice, while staying true to its founding principles. Continue reading

4/15/15 O&A REVIEW: Dance Theatre Of Harlem

By Walter Rutledge

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The Dance Theatre Of Harlem presented their New York City season April 8 through 11 at New York City Center. This is the third season since the much heralded return of the company in 2012, and for the 2015 season Artistic Director Virginia Johnson curated two programs, a total of seven works, presented over four performances. Aside from the two neoclassical Balanchine works the repertoire reflected a new direction for the company.

Many have anticipated the return of the barrier breaking dance institution that literally evolved, under the direction of founder Arthur Mitchell, from Afros to ballet buns. The 2015 New York City season introduced a svelte company of eighteen young dancers that has evolved into a formidable contemporary ballet company. Johnson tapped an eclectic array of choreographers to challenge the dancers showcasing the strengths of each young artist.

The three highlights of the season were Nacho Duato’s Coming Together, Ulysses Dove’s On The Front Porch Of Heaven and The Mirror In Her Mind by Christopher Huggins. These works provided the dancers the opportunity to transcend the physical limitation of the stage. The dancers reached beyond the footlights to touch the audience.

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Nacho Duato’s Coming Together kept us on a suspense filled movement roller coaster from beginning to end. This master craftsman skillfully heightened the work’s intensity through strong choreographic structure. His reliance on design produced a kinesthetically stimulating ensemble dance.

Virtuoso dancing performed at a breakneck pace enhanced the choreographic design and brought the company’s technical prowess to the forefront. Here the company was at its best! They performed with verve, vigor, and a strong assured attack- “balls forward”. They were not just dancing; instead the company was in the moment- living through the movement.

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Da’Von Doane’s solo courageously “throw caution to the wind”. His risk taking paid off, at one point creating a catalyst effect that seemed to draw the dancers back to the stage. Dylan Santos also distinguished himself with clean execution; his firecracker attack revealed an exciting inner fire.

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Christopher Huggins’ The Mirror In Her Mind was a visually satisfying quartet also danced with great aplomb by Ashley Murphy, Da’Von Doane, Anthony Savoy and Samuel Wilson. The dance was filled with sumptuous partnering executed with daring and precision. Leaping, turning and yearning with great abandon, Murphy’s male trio moved her effortlessly around the stage. Her compelling interpretation combined the right amount of strength and vulnerability.

If Huggins had designed a pure movement/abstract work the quartet would have been truly dazzling. As a narrative it lacked the needed character development to create a complete scenario. This dance felt like an excerpt, possibly the middle section from a larger work.

We never knew who the three men really were and what led Murphy on her path. To equate it in more visceral terms it was like sex without foreplay or afterglow- definitely satisfying just not totally fulfilling. A work with this much potential deserves a beginning section to establish the relationships and an ending section for a real resolution.

Heaven

Ulysses Dove’s haunting allergy Dancing On The Front Porch Of Heaven made its Dance Theatre of Harlem premiered in 2014. The acquisition of this work helped set the tone for the company’s present and welcomed aestheticism. The work set to Arvo Part (Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten) featured dancers in white unitards designed by Jorge Gallardo.

DANCESTL, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Anthony Savoy and Fredrick Davis, Photo by Sharen Bradford

The centerpiece of the work is a male duet performed by Anthony Savoy and Frederick Davis. The ethereal nature of the duet created a noble sojourn. Davis’ stoicism balanced Savoy’s brave journey into the unknown. The ensuing performance became a profound conversation between brethren. The final upstage ascent into the darkness was not an ending, but a peaceful walk into “the next”.

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Throughout the season there were additional performers and performances that should be mentioned. In the opening section of Robert Garland’s Return, and the pas de quartre in Duato’s Coming Together Jenelle Figgins danced with the appropriate command and temperament. Chryrstyn Fentroy was a beacon of hope in Agon. Her performance in the second pas de trios section displayed technical proficiency, and a sense of confidence and élan. And Keenan English’s clean line and inmate style allowed him to standout in the corps. English has that God-given quality that makes you want to look at him.

As Dance Theatre of Harlem moves forward they will have to decide whether to recreate the Company of old or to move into a new future. Presently it seems they are trying to do both with a modicum of success. It would be a brave and bold move to honor the Company’s 45 year legacy by pursuing a direction more in tune with the present.

This new company could have a bright future if it redefines as oppose to confine itself to a past image and standards. The great response from the large and enthusiastic audience at New York City Center shows the public supports the new direction and has embraced this Dance Theatre Of Harlem. Hopefully they will get the proverbial “800 pound Neo-classic Gorilla” out of the room.

4/8/15 O&A Profiles: Da’Von Doane and Ashley Murphy- Partners

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Partners form one of the most rewarding and lasting bonds between dancers.  Partnerships such as Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn, Richard Cragun and Marcia Haydee and Ivan Nagy and Natalia Makarova thrilled audiences with their cooperative commitment to excellence. This season Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Da’Von Doane and Ashley Murphy continues the tradition.

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Far But Close (excerpt)

In partnering the man is usually subservient, he becomes the platinum setting that invisibly reveals the ballerina’s “diamond” brilliance. Doane and Murphy first danced together in the 2009- 2010 season production of Billie Wilson’s Concerto In F. Doane explained their onstage relationship,”I guess the saying is true, that iron sharpens iron. To work with someone who never sacrifices the quality of their work for not even a second is truly inspiring. Working with Ashley makes me want to be a better dancer and partner because I know she is doing the same.”

Da’Von Doane and Ashley Murphy

For the 2015 Dance Theatre Of Harlem New York City season Doane and Murphy will dance together in Balachine’s Agon, Robert Garland’s Return, Coming Together by Nacho Duato, Vessels by Darrell Moultrie and Christopher Huggin’s In The Mirror Of Her Mind. For more information about the 2015 Dance Theatre of Harlem New York season, April 8-11 at New York City Center, or to buy tickets visit dancetheatreofharlem.org. 

2/28/15 O&A Dance Theatre of Harlem Honors Jessye Norman (repost)

By Walter Rutledge

Jessye Norman and DTH Students Photo Joseph Rodman

The Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) held their 4th annual Vision Gala on Tuesday, February 24 at Cipriani, 110 East 42nd Street. The fundraiser honored opera diva Jessye Norman with the Arthur Mitchell Vision Award. Theodore Bartwink was honored posthumously with the Carl & Lily Pforzheimer Family Foundation Medal. For over three decades Bartwink was the Director of the Harness Center for Dance. The Virtuoso Award Honorees were Mario Baeza and Under Armour, Inc. Continue reading

2/27/15 O&A Dance Theatre of Harlem Honors Jessye Norman

By Walter Rutledge

Jessye Norman and DTH Students Photo Joseph Rodman

The Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) held their 4th annual Vision Gala on Tuesday, February 24 at Cipriani, 110 East 42nd Street. The fundraiser honored opera diva Jessye Norman with the Arthur Mitchell Vision Award. Theodore Bartwink was honored posthumously with the Carl & Lily Pforzheimer Family Foundation Medal. For over three decades Bartwink was the Director of the Harness Center for Dance. The Virtuoso Award Honorees were Mario Baeza and Under Armour, Inc. Continue reading

8/7/17 (REPOST) O&A NYC DANCE: Dance Theatre Of Harlem- Troy Game (1985)

cb83686cbb62e5c8be54a6b0395bddbc(Text from Jennifer Dunning- New York Times June 20, 1985)

Robert North’s Troy Game is one of Dance Theater of Harlem’s happiest dances. Set to a stylishly syncopated, Brazilian-flavored score by Bob Downes, Troy Game is a funny and sexy romp with a special wit by the dancers.  Continue reading