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Dance Theater Harlem awes

Yvonne Delaney Mitchell | 4/19/2013, 9:59 a.m.
Dance Theater Harlem awes

"Act III Pas de Deux" dates back to 1895 and is as technically challenging as one can get. The selection was first staged for DTH in 2012 by former ballerina and renowned coach and teacher Anna-Marie Holmes, who learned the role in St. Petersburg, Russia, from the great Kirov ballerina Natalia Dudinskaya. Wilson performed the role with such vigor and passion that you would think he is really in love with DePrince (for real). DePrince, who was born in Sierra Leone, Africa, orphaned by the civil war there and adopted by an American family when she was 4 years old, led Wilson across the stage with all of the grace and ease of one happily pursued by a suitor in tow.

The final scene was beyond believable when Wilson, on bended knee, kissed the lovely DePrince's hand and she, with the attitude and the sheer delight of a conqueror, threw her head back with a snap that could crack the wind. True drama, true perfection.

After a brief intermission, the second half of the show began, and the energy continued to rise. "Far But Close," which premiered Nov. 16, 2012, is a fascinating piece, adding flavor and spice. Choreographed by John Alleyne, with costumes by Emilio Sosa, lighting by Gerald King, text composed and spoken by our Nicole Lewis and our very own Daniel Beaty and music by Daniel Bernard Roumain on violin/piano and Dana Leong on cello, this piece is a mix of ballet and poetry. While Beaty, Lewis and the musicians are hidden in the shadows of a dimly lit portion of the stage, the love story of a man and woman unfolds, meeting by chance, wanting to love but afraid to love; you know, "far but close." The theme, as portrayed through classical ballet, took the audience to another level, penetrating deep as it made one reflect on a time in one's own personal relationships when someone was far but close. We've all been there, I'm sure--at least if you're human you have.

It wouldn't be an Arthur Mitchell ballet experience if the show didn't end on an upbeat note. Mixing--as only he could--classical ballet technique with the sound of funky soul music, the last piece on the program was "Return." How fitting a name, because DTH has indeed returned. Women danced en pointe and pirouetted as men jumped and leapt about the stage to the music of James Brown's "Mother Popcorn," "I Got the Feeling" and "Superbad" and Aretha Franklin's "Baby, Baby, Baby" and "Call Me." The audience's emotional reactions ranged from laughter to tears, as the artistry was compelling, passionate and perfect.

The show was much like life itself, wherein there are highs and lows. The high was my excitement at the return of DTH and how they surpassed all of my expectations, which were pretty high to begin with. The low was the review by the New York Times. First, I found it completely disrespectful that the Times didn't think DTH was worthy enough to post a review in the paper's art section on the day after the premiere performance. That was an insult. Secondly, when they did get around to it on the second day, April 12, the review was appalling.