IMPRESSIONS: Dance Theatre of Harlem 2

IMPRESSIONS: Dance Theatre of Harlem 2
Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram

By Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram
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Published on February 17, 2012

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IMPRESSIONS: Dance Theatre of Harlem ll

At The Joyce Theater New York

Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 2pm



Artistic Director: Virginia Johnson

Director DTH II: Keith Saunders


Dancers: Flavia Garcia, Renee Bharath Kim, Ashley Murphy, Lourdes Rodriquez, Mayuko Shoka , Ingrid Silva, Danielle Thomas, Steophanie Williams, Alexandra Jacob Wilson, Fredrick Davis, DaVon Doane,Taurean Green , Jehbreal Jackson, David Kim, Anthony Savoy, and Samuel Wilson


Choreography: David Fernandez, Christopher Huggins, George Balanchine, and Donald Byrd


Film by: Gabrielle Lamb EN AVANT*


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©Christine Jowers for The Dance Enthusiast


Dance Theatre of Harlem II in Donald Byrd's Contested Space Photo © Rachel Neville





My first experience with ballet was with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Coming from the multi-racial Caribbean I didn’t understand the statement that Arthur Mitchell was making when he created an all black ballet company. As far as I was concerned the dancers looked like me and all my grammar school friends.
And why wouldn’t they? I didn’t realize until I was older, and started to travel outside of my island cocoon, how revolutionary Mr. Mitchell was in 1969.
Alexandra Jacob Wilson and Samuel Wilson in Donald Byrd's Contested Space Photo © Rachel Neville
Homer Bryant, one of the principal dancers of DTH, was from my island, St. Thomas, and for kids growing up in the Virgin Islands in the 1970’s, the Dance Theater of Harlem represented the best of what dance could be.  Arthur Mitchell, Homer Bryant and Virginia Johnson were heroes for us and still are.
When the company closed in 2004, hearts all over the world broke and mine was one of them. So it was thrilling to see DTH II, the young ensemble branch of the company, on a big stage in its hometown last week. This short season at The Joyce is a promise to the world that the dream is back. Our appetites are whet for more.
Donald Byrd and The Dance Theater Harlem II - what a combination.
This performance was not a promise for the future, but a bold announcement of,
“We are here."

While all the work presented during the Saturday matinee program showed off the talents of the company- whether it be their acting skill, polished technique or the ability to pirouette from the demands of brand new ballets created in 2011 (by David Fernandez and Christopher Huggins) to the Glinka Pas de Trois choreographed in 1955 by George Balanchine. The dancing highlight of the day was the finale, Contested Space choreographed by Donald Byrd. Wow. Up to that point what I saw were extremely gifted young people, our stars of the future. But from the moment the smoke rose on stage and the electronic funk of Amon Tobin’s music crackled and spit, the dancing was star-studded magnificence. Imagine the asymmetrical lines and light rail speed of neo -classical ballet mixed with club dancing’s’ percussive shudders, pops, and winding hips. Imagine ballet that is knock down drag out sexy and unabashedly authoritative. Donald Byrd and The Dance Theater Harlem II - what a combination. This performance was not a promise for the future, but a bold announcement of, “We are here."
*Gabrielle Lamb's Film EN EVANT
was wonderful to see this documentary short and all the old pictures of the Dance Theatre of Harlem as I knew them as a child, mixed with the voices of dancers and teachers of today. I hope we get the chance to see this film again. En evant in ballet lingo means front or to the front... I can't wait to see more of The Dance Theatre of Harlem ( be it ll or l) out at the front of the stage....




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