Dance review + Intricate Wardrobe


Dance Theatre of Harlem performs “Gloria”. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem, which recently made a comeback in the world of classical ballet, was in good form Friday night at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, where they presented a program in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The company was founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell, who returned to Harlem after dancing with the New York City Ballet in order to dispel the belief that those of African decent could not dance ballet.  Over the years, he, alongside Artistic Director Virginia Johnson, turned the troupe into one of the most exciting dance companies in New York City; at Friday’s performance — their first at NJPAC in over a decade — they proved they are dancing as passionately as ever.

They opened the program with “Gloria”, a classically infused work choreographed by Robert Garland.  The piece started off as a spiritual, with its themes of devotion, love, and life; there was a serene sense of pride and peace that suffused the stage as the dancers glided back and forth doing the heel toe, while one soloist dreamily tiptoed in circles across the stage.  The performers, decked out in lime green and light blue leotards with wispy short skirts, exuded sophistication and elegance in their body movements; yet at the same time, they showed a beautiful vulnerability — a sense of surrender to their work. Towards the end a troupe of young girls came out and danced around the more mature dancers, bringing with them a sense of unity.  They seemed like a new beginning; the start of the walk of life from childhood to adulthood.

Originally written by me for :


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