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DTH new york season April 2013

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I went to the performance last night, Thursday April 11. Program was Agon, black swan pdd (after Petipa and Seergeyev, staged by Anna Marie Holmes), Far Not Close (choreography John Alleyne, music Daniel Bernard Romain), Return (choreography Robert Ggarland, music James Brown and Aretha Franklin).

First impressions: this is a very young company and it really shows, and not one that has, as far as I can tell, had that much classical and neo-classical experience. The dancers are super charming and energetic and have the wonderful bodies of youth -- pliable, huge extensions, lots of height -- but not a lot of musicality.

Agon was to me the worst performed ballet, but also the hardest – not in terms of bravura technique, necessarily, but because the Stravinsky score is very challenging and the dancers didn’t seem to have a sense of how to fit the steps inside it, or how to vary their emphases appropriately. A lot of steps felt mechanical and square on the beat in a not-good way, and sometimes I could practically see the dancers counting. Also, these steps need to be crisp and some poses need to be snapped into; the steps were not done crisply enough and some of the partnering in the pdd was wobbly. That said Ashley Murphy (who appears to be one of the more experienced dancers) did a nice job with the bransle gay and her two partners, Jehbreal Jackson and Dustin James, were also good.

Black Swan: this was here as a crowd pleaser/ exhibition piece, and as that it did its job, with the audience whooping at every leap and balance by the end. The dancers, Chrystyn Fentroy and Da'von Doane, did a nice job but again so young, you could see them trying to add some emotion on top of the steps. But aside from a few wobbles in supported balances, the technique was quite good.

Far Not Close -- I hated this as a ballet, but it was very well danced. As soon as these dancers got into contemporary choreography, they were so much steadier, more confident, and just better. My guess is this is the kind of choreography they have the most experience with and are more comfortable in, but it the kind of choreography that does not have a particularly interesting relationship to its music, in my opinion. The music is a background that provides more emotional cues than anything else. In this particular ballet, the music reminded me of what you’d hear in a hotel lobby, and the piece also included extensive spoken word to tell the story expressed by the dancers (boy hits on girl on subway, girl invites boy home, boy and girl fall in love after boy magically repairs her daddy issues) which was not just clichéd but perpetuated the idea that a really romantic guy is the kind who won't take no for an answer. Now, admittedly, as a middle-aged white lady I am not the target demographic for any part of this ballet, but I really hated it, despite the performances being uniformly excellent.

Return -- very very fun but who doesn't love moving to James Brown? It’s kind of stars and stripes using funk instead of Sousa -- Garland’s choreography is ballet steps (most of the time) and its fun to see those steps working with this music. Of course there’s some plain old shimmying (and a soul train line!). Again, in this kind of choreography the dancers are lovely and strong.

I'm old enough to have seen DTH a few times before the hiatus, and this is not that company. While that company did have a varied rep, the dancers were comfortable in a lot of different ballet styles, not just contemporary ballet. They could also handle relating steps to the music in way that went beyond hitting foursquare on the beat. It is early days and again, mostly very young dancers, but to my mind they're looking more like Ailey with extra pointe shoes than Arthur Mitchell’s company. Maybe that’s what the company and its audience want, but to me it’s a loss of variety in the dance world

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but to my mind they're looking more like Ailey with extra pointe shoes

I find this a very interesting observation. DTH was here in Seattle the same weekend as Cedar Lake, and I've been thinking about how differently "new" ballet companies define the art form -- I think this might be a different thread, so won't hijack this discussion, but it's something I've been mulling over.

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