Dance Theatre of Harlem, Year Two

Davon Doane and Ashley Murphy in Past-Carry-Forward. Photo by Rachel Neville.
Davon Doane and Ashley Murphy in Past-Carry-Forward. Photo by Rachel Neville.

Dance Theatre of Harlem is currently wrapping up its second season since its return under the steady leadership of Virginia Johnson. (You can read more about here here, in this long and wide-ranging interview from last year.)

Like last year, the dancers’ warmth and directness are a pleasure. Ashley Murphy is a knockout. Chrystyn Fentroy radiates joy. But the dancing is still uneven, and especially in the more classical works, it shows some strain, some sloppiness. Then there is the question of repertory, which Johnson is molding with an eye to the company’s history and identity. It’s a difficult job. You can read more about the season here, in my review for DanceTabs. Here’s a short excerpt:

“The opening and closing of Gloria are explosions of joy, in which toe-heel taps and shimmying shoulders feel organic, like part of a misa criolla. Several passages leave vivid after-images, as when Ashley Murphy hovers in profile, her strong feet shimmering like hummingbird wings. As she bends forward or arches toward the sky, she alternates between atonement and elation.”

In the French Manner

Janie Taylor and Sébastien Marcovici in "La Valse." Both will retire at the end of the season. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Janie Taylor and Sébastien Marcovici in “La Valse.” Both will retire at the end of the season. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

New York City Ballet is performing an all-French program this week, with ballets by Liam Scarlett (Acheron), Jerome Robbins (Aftenoon of a Faun), and Balanchine (Walpurgisnacht Ballet and La Valse). Here’s my review for DanceTabs.

And a short excerpt: “Two of the works on the program (Afternoon of a Faun and La Valse) were created for the ballerina Tanaquil LeClercq, Balanchine’s third wife, struck with Polio at the age of twenty-seven, and now the subject of a moving documentary, Afternoon of a Faun. LeClercq’s dramatic intelligence, sense of chic, and air of knowingness – she was half-French, born in Paris – hover over the evening.”

About a Boy—a new ballet for New York City Ballet by Liam Scarlett

On Friday, New York City Ballet unveiled its first ballet by the young Briton Liam Scarlett, who, at 27, is considered one of the most promising new voices in ballet. The work is entitled “Acheron”—the name of a river in Greek mythology— and set to Poulenc’s Concerto in G for Organ, Strings, and Tympani, the same piece Glen Tetley used for his1973 ballet Voluntaries. You can read my review for DanceTabs here.

And here’s a short excerpt:

“The première of Acheron…revealed a choreographer of prodigious imagination and compositional craft, adept at building an atmosphere and suffusing it with traces of meaning. Though the ballet is abstract, without characters or a plot, an underlying theme coalesces by the end. With this deeper understanding, everything that comes before is bathed in a different hue. I’m eager to see it again, armed with this knowledge.”
I’d love to hear comments and thoughts from others who saw the ballet.

Enjoy your sunday—I hear Renée Fleming will be singing somewhere in Jersey tonight…

A Sentimental Education: Martha Clarke Takes on Chéri

Herman Cornejo and Alessandra Ferri in Martha Clarke's "Chéri." Photo by Joan Marcus.
Herman Cornejo and Alessandra Ferri in Martha Clarke’s “Chéri.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

 Here is my feature on Martha Clarke’s new dance/theatre work, Chéri, now playing at the Signature Theatre. I also includes an interview with Herman Cornejo on the making of the show. A short excerpt:

MH: How was the piece developed?

HC: We started about a year ago. We worked whenever I was free. Sometimes it was just Mondays, or after seven in the afternoon. Then, when Signature Theatre signed on to present the work, we were able to rehearse for two or three months in the theatre. At the beginning, we would go to the studio without a plan, without preconceptions, and read the book together. A word or a phrase from the book would inspire us, and we would start creating steps to express the emotions in that line or word. From the beginning, Alessandra and I had amazing chemistry and that’s why we were able to go as far as we did. We all made it together.