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DANCE REVIEW: Dance Theatre of Harlem

Fresno welcomed the reborn Dance Theatre of Harlem main company back with gusto Sunday night to the Saroyan Theatre. The famous ensemble has visited the city five times starting in 1989. When it had to shut down in 2004 for economic reasons,  the brand was continued with its “second company,” a training troupe for younger dancers. (That group visited Fresno in 2010.) The re-formed main company made its debut just a few weeks ago in Louisville, Ky.

The challenges of kicking off a new company — even one with such a storied tradition — are numerous, and it was probably too much to expect an early performance such as this to brim with the confidence and unified artistic vision that one would hope from a world-class ensemble. That said, I was ambivalent about Sunday’s performance.

Only when the company took the stage in its fourth and final piece, Donald Byrd’s explosive “Contested Space” (pictured above), did the evening feel riveting. Set to the jarring music of Amon Tobin, this “hip exploration of contemporary male/female relationships,” as the program put it, unfolded with a smoldering, mechanized, aggressive sensibility.

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Win tickets to Dance Theatre of Harlem

UPDATE 11/9: Congratulations to winners Joey Fernandez and Jan Quezada. Hope  you enjoy!

ORIGINAL POST: I have tickets to give away to a very big-deal dance event taking place Sunday: a performance by the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Any occasion in which a top-notch New York company performs in Fresno is a major event, but the wow factor of this concert is multiplied for an interesting reason. The Dance Theatre of Harlem had to shut down in 2004 because of financial difficulties, but it’s being revived. The first performance was just a few weeks ago in Kentucky, and the company is on tour looking toward an anticipated New York debut in spring 2013. So Fresno is one of the first cities to see the newly reconstituted group perform.

(After Dance Theatre of Harlem shut down, the company’s “second” performing group — made up of younger dancers, many in training, continued the brand under the name “Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble.” That group performed in 2010 in Fresno.)

So here’s the deal: I have two pairs of tickets to give away to Sunday’s performance, which takes place 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Saroyan Theatre.  These are premium seats (Row J, orchestra) that would go for $78 each.

To enter our giveaway, leave a comment on this post. I’ll pick two winners at random who each will receive two tickets. Deadline is 4 p.m. Wednesday. If you enter, please remember to check your email, because that’s how I’ll be notifying winners. These are paper tickets, so you’ll need to be able to come down to The Bee’s front lobby during business hours by 5 p.m. Friday to pick them up.

See complete rules on the jump.

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Donald’s mailbag

Two items related to the recent appearance of the Dance Theatre of Harlem:

OFFENSIVE COMMENT?

Sharon, a reader from Clovis, was troubled by one of Diane Mosier’s quotations in my 7 story about the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s performance at the Saroyan Theatre. In talking about the multicultural aspect of the company’s appeal, I included a comment from Mosier (the artistic director of the Lively Arts Foundation, which brought the company to town) in which she talked about the ethnic bond that exists between black audience members and the performers. Mosier said: “Any time you went to a Dance Theatre of Harlem performance, you could see the pride in the faces of the black people who attended.”

Sharon said in a phone-mail message:

I hope if you go further with this that someone interview an African-American person and have them quote themselves. I’m trying not to let [the comment] be racist … It just sounded so white. I guess Diane Mosier isn’t getting the NAACP White Person of the Year award. Probably not. I appreciate her passion for bringing [the company] here, but maybe they ought to have somebody else do the quotes.

My response:

I think this is a case where I could have written the explanatory material around the quote more smoothly. I don’t think Mosier’s comment was offensive. She was saying that the DTOH has always been strongly identified — and positively so — with the black community. Is it legitimate for a non-black person to comment on this bond? I’d say yes. But the quotation does sound a little brittle. I could have added more context. One other thing I’d point out: the majority of the quotations in the story come from company director Keith Saunders, who is black.

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DANCE REVIEW: Dance Theatre of Harlem

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The lights come up slowly, duskily, and in the shadowy details it’s hard to tell at first exactly what it is we’re seeing. One person? Two? Soon it becomes apparent it’s a man and a woman dressed in skin-tight lycra. The front of her costume is red and the back a pure black; the color scheme is opposite for the man. Bathed in the spotlight, the couple intertwines in a variety of nimble poses — including one in which the woman quivers on all fours on pointe — and as the red and black colors shift with their moves, it almost looks like some extravagant rainforest insect dancing in the sun.

This was choreographer Peter Pucci’s “Episode,” and it was one of the highlights of Friday’s performance at the Saroyan Theatre of the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble.

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Donald’s weekend picks

Mike already has run down some great options. Here are a couple more:

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DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM ENSEMBLE

Direct from New York, this contemporary ballet company plans an eclectic program 7:30 p.m. today at the Saroyan Theatre. I write about DTOH’s rejuvenation in today’s 7 cover story.

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Win tickets to the Dance Theatre of Harlem

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FINAL UPDATE: We have our third winner: Sharon Alford-Oakley.

UPDATE: We have two winners so far: Cindy Wathen and Iris Badillo. The good news is that I got my hand on a third pair of tickets to give away. The bad news is that our original winner never responded to the two emails I sent. So I picked another winner at random and am waiting for confirmation.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: If you’re a fan of contemporary ballet, you won’t want to miss the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble’s 7:30 p.m. Friday performance at the Saroyan Theatre. Though I’m sure dance connoisseurs will find a lot to like about this concert, it also sounds as if it will be good for “beginning” fans and kids. That’s because the company has an educational/interactive philosophy toward the program. The audience will get a chance to meet the dancers, and a narrator will introduce each piece and give a little background.

I have two pairs of tickets to give away to the event — all orchestra seats, Row N.

Enter by leaving a comment on this post. No repeat comments, please. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something in the past 30 days. You’ll need to pick up your tickets at The Bee’s front lobby by 5 p.m. Friday. Complete rules after the jump.

Deadline is 10 a.m. Thursday. Please, if you enter this contest, be sure to check your email late Thursday morning to see if you’re a winner.

Does anyone remember the last time Dance Theatre of Harlem came to Fresno, in 2002?

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