By Walter Rutledge
Charmaine Hunter, former Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) principal dancer, was in New York City this weekend for the New York season of DTH. We had a chance to talk and the conversation turned to the time we danced together with the Nanette Bearden Contemporary Dance Theatre.
It was my last performance as resident choreographer and assistant artistic director before venturing out as a free lance artist. Sheila Rohan, the artist the work was choreographed for, was unavailable and Charmaine Hunter graciously stepped in. The duet was my homage to the late John Cranko, whose choreography put the Stuttgart Ballet on the international main stage.
Cranko was the master of the story ballet and his duets remain some of the best ever performed. Our duet was designed to showcase the art of partnering. Set in a laid-back comedic style (a la Taming of the Shrew) Rosa Mae followed the Cranko canon by marrying movement and theatre; and Charmaine embodied both.
Rosa Mae was written and composed by Jazz composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams. The song centered around her friend Billie Holiday and her poor treatment of men. Charmaine and I portrayed two misguided performers who love and fight onstage; and that night it was on! Jennifer Dunning concluded her June 3, 1990 New York Times review of the Bearden performance stating, “Ms. Hunter and Mr. Rutledge were outstanding in a sharply comical night club routine.”
Rosa Mae (excerpt form Homage to Mary Lou)
Thank you Charmaine !