Dance Theatre of Harlem, Sadler's Wells, London

Bravura dancing lifts this earnest dud
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

You can have too broad a repertoire. Dance Theatre of Harlem's first programme opens impressively with Balanchine's "Serenade" and Ashton's "Thaïs". Then we're confronted with Michael Smuin's "A Song for Dead Warriors", a multimedia whatsit about the sufferings of the Native American, complete with onstage buffalo stampede.

You can have too broad a repertoire. Dance Theatre of Harlem's first programme opens impressively with Balanchine's "Serenade" and Ashton's "Thaïs". Then we're confronted with Michael Smuin's "A Song for Dead Warriors", a multimedia whatsit about the sufferings of the Native American, complete with onstage buffalo stampede.

The Harlem company was founded by Arthur Mitchell in response to the death of Martin Luther King. It's still the world's most famous primarily black ballet company. The aim is broad audience appeal and good dancing. You could see both those things on the first night, but it didn't quite gel.

"Serenade" is a lyrical, romantic work, but the dancing is bright-edged and bold. The corps is conscientious about the choreography's thrust hips, its radical off-balance quality. They look like polite schoolgirls, striving for correctness.

"Thaïs" was an unexpected bonus: unannounced and welcome. It's a gala number, an Orientalist vision to a Massenet interlude. The ballerina floats, glides into her partner's arms, swoons through flowing lifts. Melissa Morrissey was smoothly elegant, but her partner Kip Sturm was too inflexible.

"Serenade" is an earnest dud, a melodrama without nuance or even much energy. It's a dreadful piece, but it's bravura dancing.

Comments