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DTH May 20-25, 2003 in Washington, DC

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Sarah Kaufmann wrote a very negative review of their Tue. May 20 program -> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/artic...-2003May21.html

Her main point seemed to be that it is a great company that is dancing well, but their program (Stabat Mater, Wingborne, Prodigal Son, Firebird) was old and tired. She attributed this to financial problems.

I did not see the May 20 performance, but I did see the alternate program May 23 (Viraa, Wingborne, Passion of the Blood, Return). These dances, except for Wingborne, are more recent (created 1999-2001) - that is why I picked that night - but to tell you the truth, I would probably write a similar review to Sarah's because even though the dances are (relatively) new, to me they seemed designed to please the crowd rather than to break new ground.

When even the "new" program seems old and tired, that has to be a wake-up call!

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Hi, Mike! I have to say I agree with you -- I saw both programs. I find the DTH dancers so appealing, I enjoyed the second program a bit more -- and I think it's good to give choreographers chances. But....not their most inspiring season.

The audience seemed divided -- some really loud whoops and hollers from some, and silence from others.

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To contribute a slightly different perspective, perhaps Allan and I are too easily pleased. Perhaps we have seen so many performances of Dougla and Troy Games that any respite is welcome. For years, almost every KC DTH Saturday matinee has included one or the other. If memory serves, one year even brought something we'd long joked might happen: both in one performance. Memorable! They're striking dances, well worth seeing, but not to the exclusion of the rest of a rich and varied repertory.

In any event, we thought yesterday's (second) DTH program was one of the best in some time. The four ballets were quite different in style, and we found much to enjoy in all of them. The company also seemed in better form and better spirits than when we we last saw it. (Was there a dip at that time, and if so, does any one know why? It did seem a transitional period for the company.) All in all, it was an afternoon that exceeded our expectations. I'd be interested to hear what others thought.

I'd also be interested to know what some of the well-known names of the past are doing. An era seemed to come to an end in the few years, mostly due to retirement I presume. So many dancers to miss! Virginia Johnson is, of course, editing Pointe magazine, and Lowell Smith appears to be staging some works for the company. There was sad news about Stephanie Dabney awhile back. Any word of any of the others, Hugues Magen, for instance?

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Ginny, I can't answer the "where are they now" questions, unfortunately. I miss Eddie J. Shellman and Ronald Perry as well (although they were at retirement age when they left.) And Christine Johnson, one of the finest Giselles I've ever seen.

I can agree with both Mike AND Ginny. I thought the second program, which I saw Friday night, was rather like going to someone's home and being served peanut butter jelly sandwiches on wonder bread, with kool aid in plastic tumblers. But the house was immaculate, the children charming and well-behaved, and everyone so goldarned nice and obviously offering you the best they had that you enjoyed the evening.

I think what separates DTH from other companies with their resources is that Mitchell has an international standard, an international-level eye. Maybe he can't reach it, but he knows what it is, and the dancers do, too. The past few seasons I've seen (I didn't go last year) have looked under-rehearsed and sloppy. There was an "Allegro Brillante" two or three years ago that was shockingly bad. But this season, they looked well-rehearsed and dancing with purpose.

That said, and what I didn't say in my review that ran in yesteday's Post, everything on the program looked as though it could have been choreographed in the 1980s, even though the oldest piece was 1999. "Viraa" was a classical ballet, which pleased me, of course, but it's reworking old ground. "Passion in the Blood" could have been a very minor story ballet from earlier than 1980, actually, like the low '50s. (Although story ballets are so hard to do, I admire van Heerden for trying, and realize that you have to be able to actually DO one or two or three; you can't just sit around thinking about it.) And Garland's "Return", while fun, is nothing new either. By "new" I don't mean shock surprise stand classicism on its head, of course, but just a sense that one wasn't seeing a navy dress in the style of the 1980s redone in red or green.

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Originally posted by Alexandra

I think what separates DTH from other companies with their resources is that Mitchell has an international standard, an international-level eye.  Maybe he can't reach it, but he knows what it is, and the dancers do, too.

What puzzles me about DTH is that the company was, if not of international standard, at least a classical company of much higher achievement in the 1970s. It started to decline in the 80s, and has — at least from my infrequent viewings — continued that decline ever since. I wonder if the absence of Karel Shook, who died about ten (?) years ago, has something to do with it.
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I wonder if it isn't simply a question of money? DTH has been struggling more than any other company I know. I've seen programs in the past where the dancing was well below par -- I didn't feel that this time, although the ballets were not particularly rigorous. Money must be the reason for the repertory woes -- they just don't have any new repertory. (New in any sense of the word -- new acquisitions, new creations.) The dancing was weak in "Prodigal Son," but you could still see the ballet.

Ari, I don't know Shook's role in the company, nor who the other ballet masters have been (LeClercq used to teach there, but beyond that I haven't kept up with that aspect.)

Of course, in the 1970s, the repertory WAS rigorous. Balanchine at its core, and the new works, including those by Mitchell, were classical. Some of us make the point from time to time that if a company starts dancing a predominantly pop or contemporary dance rep, it loses its technique. DTH has done a lot of pop and contempo in the past 3 decades.

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