Dance Theater of Harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem hits a melancholy note

After a 25-year absence from Portland, the company dances its somber side.

The last time Dance Theatre of Harlem played Portland, 25 years ago, at the auditorium formerly known as the Civic, the company’s 51 dancers performed a repertory that included, among other works, “Act II of Swan Lake,” company founder Arthur Mitchell’s “John Henry,” John Taras’s exotic, tropical version of “The Firebird,” and John McFall’s contemporary “Toccata e Due Canzoni.” The company was about to go on hiatus for six months, their budget having taken a major hit when touring dates in San Diego and London were cancelled.

Tuesday night, at the Schnitz, the company’s 18 dancers—now under the artistic direction of the great ballerina Virginia Johnson (and I use neither the term great nor ballerina lightly), a founding member of the company—performed four contemporary ballets that with the exception of Christopher Huggins “In the Mirror of Her Memory,” looked, choreographically and visually, distressingly alike. That’s not the direction we like to see company’s go.

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