40 kids dance with pros

April 21, 1994|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Special to The Sun

Arthur Mitchell, who created the Dance Theatre of Harlem 25 years ago, believes in the power of youth. On Tuesday, his company opened a two-week engagement at the Kennedy Center Opera House with "Bach Passacaglia," a dance that featured 40 young local dancers along with DTH principals Christina Johnson, Tai Jimenez, Eddie J. Shellman and Donald Williams.

It was one of those performances when the dance was secondary to what was actually happening -- 40 children were given the chance to become part of Mitchell's dream, to become one of his "seeds" of the future. The stage was packed, the dancers could hardly move, and the children performed rudimentary steps. But the overall feeling was a celebration of talent and tradition.

DTH will perform 12 works with five different programs during a stay at the Kennedy Center. The opening night program included the Emmy-winning dance "A Streetcar Named Desire," by Valerie Bettis, and the energetic "Concerto in F," choreographed by Billy Wilson to the score by George Gershwin.

"A Streetcar Named Desire," based on the Tennessee Williams play, is a dramatic one-act ballet that focuses on the apt dramatic talents of Virginia Johnson as the ill-fated Blanche DuBois.

However, Lowell Smith as Stanley Kowalski was a curious casting choice; his portrayal of the predatory Kowalski comes off more as mid-life crisis than passionate obsession.

"Concerto in F" was the evening's finale, and it brought Gershwin's music to life. Tai Jimenez and Ronald Perry were silky smooth in the first movement. Likewise Fabian Barnes, Luis Dominguez and Kellye Gordon were delightful in the humorous Andante con Moto.

Overall, the company looked a tad wilted and just a shade hesitant in its dancing -- perhaps a bit too much celebration was to blame.


What: Dance Theatre of Harlem

Where: Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington

When: Through May 1

Tickets: $19 to $44.50

$ Call: (202) 467-4600

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