Above photo: Chyrstyn Fentroy and Jorge Andrés Villarini, Dialogues. Dance Theatre of Harlem presented mostly new works Friday evening as part of its too short New York City season at City Center consisting of four performances. It was a refreshing break for ballet fans as none of the works were by Peck/Ratmansky/Wheeldon, a rarity not seeing these three in new works these days. (See my photography website notmydayjobphotography.com for photos.)
Brahms Variations, a 2016 piece from DTH Resident Choreographer Robert Garland, is a delightful classical work filled with simple steps set to the soothing Brahms score. The work is inspired by grandfather of ballet Louis XIV and DTH founder Arthur Mitchell, whom Garland calls a Harlem version of the French monarch. “So, the ballet is, in part, Louis XIV’s court meeting Harlem swag,” according to the program notes.
There is no new choreographic ground broken, with many common classical ballet elements. The flow and pace of the work is its strength as it blends together nicely with Chyrstyn Fentroy and Da’ Von Doane as the lead couple. Both are dancing at a high level, rivaling leading dancers on larger stages. Chyrstyn has solid technique and extension combined with great energy and a beaming smile. The work showcased her nice fouetté turns with doubles mixed in with singles, all danced with great musicality. Da’ Von demands much attention, with his muscular build and commanding stage presence. His leaps are impressive, covering a lot of ground. He had a nice airy beat section and secure pirouettes à la seconde, presented with grace. The supporting cast of men were strong unlike the classical work I saw from DTH three years ago, showing great improvement. I wish I could say the same for their costumes, an unappealing mix of gray tights and patterned shirt, with a dangling yellow vest.
System, by former DTH dancer Francesca Harper, premiered in 2016 and had its New York premier Friday. The work showcases eight dancers that focus on community interactions to John Adams’ String Quartet No.1. Dancers, clad in black, move in and out, relating to various members of the group with largely neo-classical steps. At the beginning and in various segments throughout the work, the eight dancers stared out into the audience with looks of bewilderment with a single light from the front of the stage providing their large, dramatic shadows on the backdrop. Although tedious at times, the work is thought-provoking as viewers attempt to figure out the meaning and patterns presented.
Dylan Santos was compelling in a solo from José Limón’s Chaconne, set to a piano score from Johann Sebastian Bach. Dylan has a dramatic flair and timing that made this long ballet/modern transfusion solo riveting at times.
The evening closed with Vessels, a 2014 work from Darrell Grand Moultrie. Although not particularly memorable, the work had some interesting segments, particularly parts with dancing with no music and the Love pas de deux with Alison Stroming and Francis Lawrence.
DTH’s City Center run consisted of only four performances and was well received by the enthusiastic crowd Friday. It is a shame the company can’t line up more performances on their home turf. DTH is in its fifth season since returning from a long hiatus due to financial difficulties that forced them to shut down in 2004. DTH, with 17 dancers, is basically a touring company, having appeared in 21 locations in the U.S. since July.