Harlem Dance Theatre kicks off 2-week stay at the Kennedy Center

March 27, 1991|By J. L. Conklin BTC

Washington --It was feared that last year's financial woes would keep the Dance Theatre of Harlem from making its annual pilgrimage to Washington. But much to the delight of dance fans, this company opened its two-week engagement last night at the Kennedy Center.

While the company has trimmed its acquisition of new works -- only two new dances are on the performance roster -- the Dance Theatre of Harlem has always featured a solid repertoire and powerful dancing.

"Ginastera" was the premiere featured on last night's program of three dances. Choreographed by Billy Wilson, the work to music by Alberto Ginastera is in five bright sections, peppered with the spice of Latin rhythms and movement idioms.

Within a sea of flamenco, jazz and classically inspired actions, Virginia Johnson and Hugues Magen enact a generation's old romantic tradition. There is a dark humor, almost a parody here, as when Ms. Johnson symbolically offers herself to her lover by giving him the red rose that adorns her black lace costume. Mr. Magen simply takes the rose and exits, leaving our heroine a bit bewildered and more than curious when Tai Jimenez and Rodolphe Cassand enter to depict a romance that is decidedly fresh-faced and without dramatic histrionics.

Mr. Wilson seems to be giving us a contrast between New World and Old World styles and traditions. His dance is full of fast-clipped turns and well-executed dancing, yet his contrast remains superficial, even though the work is basically likable.

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