Harlem shakes back onto the stage
‘Fusion pot’ Dance Theatre of Harlem excites CFA
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 22:02
Inspiration and vivacity captivated North Campus this week, as a group of talented and stifled dancers returned to the stage after declaring bankruptcy in 2004.
The Dance Theatre of Harlem took the stage at UB’s Center For the Arts Wednesday evening with 12 dancers. The group presented an eclectic repertoire of five pieces over the course of three acts.
Overall, the performance was superbly done. Every dancer was powerful and graceful, and their technique was sound.
Lillie Pincus, 14, a dancer from Rochester, N.Y., appreciated the performance.
“All of the women’s point work … the musicality, all the formation and partnering, I appreciate [a lot],” Pincus said.
The dance company combines the technique of contemporary dance with classical ballet, a sign that the Dance Theatre of Harlem has reinvented itself.
Morgan Dodds, 17, of Buffalo, is an aspiring dancer.
“The dancers were beautiful and just inspiring … watching all these styles and how they put [them] together,” Dodds said. “It blends into this sort of fusion pot.”
The dancers paid homage to classical ballet with a rendition of the timeless “Swan Lake” pas de deux (“steps of two”).In the single pair, both dancers were fluid and synchronized as they performed multiple pirouettes with ease. The execution of seamless grand jetés also illustrated the dancers’ expertise of the piece.
While the classical pieces were all well done, the dancers’ strength is seen in the more contemporary pieces, according to Margaret Kaiser, 63, of Buffalo.
“They are all well trained,” Kaiser said. “[But] I do feel they are much more comfortable with the very contemporary work.”
A contemporary piece called “In the Mirror of Her Mind,” choreographed by Christopher Huggins, was the most notable performance of the night.
The portion began with a single female dancer lying on the stage, sleeping with a single spotlight. As the lights grew stronger, three male dancers circled the convulsing female dancer, as if she was stricken by a nightmare.
The piece then became a passionate dance between the four dancers set to a symphonic and transient soundtrack. The men lifted the female multiple times throughout the dance, each time as flawless as the first. The female’s ability to continuously switch from standing flat to standing en pointe demonstrated extreme strength and skill.
The four dancers’ technique was immaculate and, at the same time, full of passion and emotion; the dancers’ feelings reverberated from the stage. The combination of dance and music was moving, heart stirring and admirable.
The performance ended with a series of short, upbeat dances under the title “Return.” With music from the likes James Brown and Aretha Franklin, the piece was an ode to the cultural birthplace of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. It doubled as a celebration for the rebirth of the dance company.
By fusing different styles of jazz dance along with ballet, the dancers were not only standing en pointe or doing pirouettes but shaking their hips and snapping their fingers to “Baby, Baby, Baby” by Aretha Franklin and “I Got the Feelin’” by James Brown for an animated closing piece.
“It was really high-energy and a nice piece to close the show with,” Pincus said.
The performance ended with a standing ovation from the audience.
The Dance Theatre of Harlem will perform next at the 2013 Vision Gala on Feb. 26 in New York City, which will include the likes of Chelsea Clinton (daughter of Bill and Hillary) in attendance. All proceeds will benefit The Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Next Generation and Community Engagement funds.