When: Fri., April 1, 8 p.m. 2011
Strictly speaking, the Dance Theatre of Harlem won't be performing inDurhamtonight. That's because it hasn't existed since 2004, when a multimillion-dollar debt forced what was then a 35-year-old company of 44 dance professionals to go on "hiatus." The bad news is that the company has not yet returned from that place, and won't, under current projections, until 2013.
Yes, today is April 1, but this is no joke. So, who's onstage tonight? The suspension of DTH operations didn't stop its school's Professional Training Program. A group of 12 former professional company dancers, students and graduates began touring last summer under the name of the Dance Theatre of HarlemEnsemble. They started with a stand at Jacob's Pillow, one of the country's prestigious modern dance festivals.
At the time,New York Times critic Claudia La Rocco saw a corps of mixed abilities in a "somewhat awkward limbo" between preprofessional and pro-level work. She was critical of the choreography, which she found didn't "push their technical and intellectual limits." Which is unfortunate, since she was referring to the program they'll be presenting here, including Peter Pucci's "Episode" (2009), an excerpt from founder Arthur Mitchell's "Fte Noire" (1971), Robert Garland's "New Bach" and "South African Suite" (1992), one of the company's signatures, set to music by the Soweto String Quartet.
Has the company progressed significantly since last June? It's hard to say. Aside from a couple of prominent profilesof the company's apparently valiant new artistic director, Virginia Johnson, there's been little published since June 2010 about this ensemble. For a company currently somewhere on the comeback trail, that's not necessarily a good sign. Find out for yourself at their 8 p.m. performance. —Byron Woods