Dance Companies Save Money
featured photo

Brought to you by
Body Wrappers; New York Flash Review Sponsor
the 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

Go Home

Flash Review 2, 9-18: Cultural Journey
DTH's Magical Diversity Tour

By Tamieca McCloud
Copyright 2000 Tamieca McCloud

When I was 'round about eight years old, I saw Dance Theatre of Harlem perform "The Firebird" on PBS. That image was so incredible that it inspired me to spend the next six years of my life training to be a ballet dancer. I've not seen it since, but to this day I think that it was the most beautiful ballet performance, and definitely the best of "The Firebird," I've ever seen. The magic of DTH, however, is that it is a strong ballet company, which is able to perform a diverse repertoire and do it well.

On Friday, DTH performed Program D of its season at City Center. The program took us on a cultural journey -- including Balanchine's "Serenade," Native American-themed "A Song For Dead Warriors" by Michael Smuin and Geoffrey Holder's "Dougla," set in the West Indies.

I'm hesitant to admit that "Serenade" was a bit of a disappointment. I'd think it was the choreography, but I've seen it before and appreciated it more. I'm hesitant to admit my disappointment because I once read an essay (by a Black choreographer) that stated his belief that Black dancers didn't have the right body type for ballet. Personally, I think that DTH alone has gone well beyond busting apart that kind of ignorance. What bothered me was the superficiality of the performance. Neither their bodies, nor their technical abilities, had anything to do with it. Friday's performance didn't go so far as to ruin "Serenade," by any means. It did, however, put me in a place where my mind constantly drifted and kept snapping back -- thinking, "That was nice...oh, it's not over yet."

During the intermission (there was one after each piece), I began to worry about the rest of the program. But as soon as "A Song For Dead Warriors" began, my worries were most definitely forgotten. Opening with projected images of past Native heroes and present Native oppression (and depression); the tone was set for the story of a man's travels through a life beginning in strength and honor, to the breaking of his spirit. Mr. Smuin's choreography and its presentation were both strong and respectful. The credits even list a Native American dance consultant and an advisor, which I found impressive. Worth mentioning are the performances by Duncan Cooper (damn that man is a beautiful jumper) and Kellye A. Saunders. But it was the performance of the work as a whole that left me nodding my head in appreciation.

"Dougla" -- now this is what I consider a great example of the diversity of DTH. Gone was the balletic movement, to be replaced by some serious hip rolling and finger shaking. My companion, a friend of Trinidadian heritage, was barely able to contain himself. If you'd come in at the start of this dance, you would not have believed that the performance opened with Balanchine. Not many companies can pull that off. Despite their stoic expressions, the dancers obviously were feelin' this piece. Said to be representative of "the ritual and ceremony of a wedding between two 'Dougla' people," this dance captivated the audience. Where 'A Song...' hit your heart and conscience, "Dougla" made you want to be a part of the celebration. Definitely a good ending for the evening.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home