Madame Walker Theatre, Nov. 10
The Dance Theatre's of Harlem's present ensemble is as breathtaking as it was during the company's 1969 opening season, hewing to the Theatre's enduring mantra of "passion, power and perfection." By adding a slight lift or turn to the expected steps and positions, by shifting angles to architecture and lines, by surprising with vivid facial expressions the company broadens and deepens our sense of classical ballet. Sixteen dancers distinguished individually in solo work, then unified selflessly for corps work. Their sense of one-ness with the distinctive look and feel of the Dance Theatre of Harlem belies their having been assembled from world-wide residences and training platforms.
The program opened with four couples in ever-changing fluidity in David Fernandez's "Six Piano Pieces" (Harlem Style) to music by Moritz Moszkowski played by Melody Fader. With "Adagietto #5," set to music by Gustave Mahler, choreographer Royston Maldoom stretches the body capacity of Samuel Wilson, Lourdes Rodriguez and Anthony Savoy for amazing moves and pictures. Balanchine's "Glinka Pas de Trois," on the other hand, takes the trio of Ashley Murphy, Davon Doane and Flavia Garcia through a whimsical relationship. Peter Pucci creates the undulating duet "Episode" to music by Nana Simopoulos; danced by Rodriguez and Frederick Davis, the emotional heat sizzles.
The program closed with the four-part "Return," choreographed by Robert Garland and featuring the company and soloists to music by James Brown, Alfred Ellis, Aretha Franklin and Carolyn Franklin. Founded by Balanchine-trained dancer Arthur Mitchell, the Dance Theatre of Harlem now is under the artistic direction of Mitchell-trained Virginia Johnson.