New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls.
Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Review, 7-10: Long Ballet's Journey
'St. Louis' Splashy but Long, 'Four T's" Sub-par as Harlem Plays Lincoln
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2003 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- Dance Theatre
of Harlem made a splashy Lincoln Center Festival debut Tuesday with
its new production of "St. Louis Woman: A Blues Ballet," choreographed
by Michael Smuin, and produced by artistic director Arthur Mitchell.
The original show, by Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Arna Bontemps,
and Countee Cullen, ran briefly on Broadway in 1946, but a handful
of its songs found broader audiences, including "Come Rain or Come
Shine" and "A Woman's Prerogative," made famous by Pearl Bailey.
A live orchestra and three singers accompanied the new one-hour
production at the New York State Theater with additional orchestrations,
arrangements, and music by Joseph E. Fields, who conducted. The
simple story, which mostly takes place in a jazz club, concerns
a love triangle and its disastrous consequences.
There is much to commend
in this new production -- the jazzy score studded with pop standards,
seeing ballet dancers cutting loose properly, and the giddiness
that goes along with the simple joy of moving to the vivacious music.
The cast I caught boasted impressive acting, especially Donald Williams
(Biglow, the tough guy), Tai Jimenez (Lila, his doormat girlfriend),
and Caroline Rocher (Della, the sloe-eyed beauty who catches Biglow's
eye). The three also performed Smuin's choreography skillfully,
rising above its technical challenges and allowing their characters
to develop. Williams partnered with strength, pressing Jimenez overhead
as she curled into a C-shape, then skimming her centrifugally a
foot off the floor. The slinky-hipped Rocher played a convincing
vamp, her clean ballet positions somehow underlining her sense of
Ikolo Griffin danced
the role of Little Augie, the jockey who wins Della's heart. Now,
horse racing may elicit all kinds of analogies ripe for the dramaturgical
picking, but on stage, a child-like man in white and teal silks
is somewhat implausible as chick bait. To his credit, Griffin tamed
a hazardous adrenaline rush in time to deftly execute a series of
turns in which he spotted off of Della, who piqued in a big circle
around him. He also exuded a sincere sense of eternal optimism.
Antonio Douthit danced
the role of Death, cartoon-scary in white make-up, tattered tails,
and bare legs down to his spats. Douthit had already literally scaled
heights in the program opener, Balanchine's "The Four Temperaments";
here, he kicked and thrashed and deleted any subtlety from the sequences
he danced -- all punctuation, no words. Death, in a kneeplay scene,
entered with two women hanging from his torso; they pushed against
him and one another to form parallel, horizontal cantilevers. More
women -- clad similarly in metal, coconut cup bikinis and steel
wool dreds -- joined the trio in a freakish line dance to push the
scene into the realm of satire.
"St. Louis Woman" has
some larger problems -- its length, for one. I say this with some
regret because the score is so enjoyable that to trim it would be
a shame. But this story -- told almost completely with dance, and
to be more precise, with ballet -- is too thin for an hour, and
Smuin winds up padding it. The countless stock ballet phrases right
out of a fundamentals class feel like the equivalent of a conversation
bogged down with "you know?"s and "see what I'm saying"s. It also
tiptoes around the question of the appropriateness of utilizing
the standard classical ballet vocabulary in a contemporary tale,
but here it is not alone. It is one thing to display happiness or
power with a big leap, but to execute one with no clear statement
renders it a filigree -- and meaningless. Of course, there are sections
of jazz and social dancing (during which the company looks terrific)
but the lion's share of movement is ballet, complete with its momentum-killing
pirouette preparations, et al. Smuin's ballet choreography is also
a few degrees more difficult than the company was able to master.
Another major problem
is the costuming, by Willa Kim. The cheap-looking fabrics are acidic
kelly greens, violets, oranges, pistachios -- pep squad leftovers
-- pieced together in the dresses with elaborate seamwork to emphasize
the hips. The men wear blousy white trousers and satin jackets.
They look awful onstage together, and clash equally with the popsicle-colored,
Matisse-quoting set by Tony Walton. The adequate singers (Sabrina
Elasyne Carten, Marlon Saunders, and Talise Trevigne) stood in a
balcony box upstage; as part of the set, they needed to lose their
scores, or at least use music stands rather than clutch their binders
Interestingly, I recently
reviewed a program by Miami City Ballet that combined a jazz club
ballet on a program with... Balanchine's "The Four Temperaments,"
performed with accurate (if conservative) technique. DTH's rendition
allowed for more individual personalities to emerge, but on the
whole, the company's technique is not up to par. It is perhaps unfair
to compare the dancers with New York City Ballet, but how can I
not, seeing as how they're in the house that George built, a week
after NYCB's season ended? It is more than just improperly angled
hands and arms and untrained foot pointing. The supporting dancers
were not able to keep pace with the demanding choreography. In one
instance the final woman in a line of several, tracing a pattern
of contractions and lunges in circles around the stage, could've
been mistaken for a wounded fawn, waiting to be seized by a stalking
predator. That Balanchine permitted no stragglers in his ranks is
evident in NYCB's current company -- a high standard, but a standard
Go back to Flash Reviews