#Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) returns to Newark’s NJPAC Saturday, Jan. 14, at 8:00 p.m., presenting four works that combine classical ballet and modern dance, often based on current events, all in tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the day before what would have been his 88th birthday. The four programmed works concern unsung women warriors for change; the stabilizing influence arising from male bonding; innocence-destroying prejudice and the sheer joy of just showing off.

Program highlights

Dancers will interpret four stylistically diverse works:

  • New Bach’: Founder Arthur Mitchell and Robert Garland created a “post-modern-urban neoclassicism” about prejudice that gives a nod to the late great choreographer George Balanchine. Indeed, Balanchine’s influence is obvious in the minimal contact between male and female dancers, the former touching the latter only as much as is absolutely necessary, which means barely. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Violin Concerto in A Minor imbues the dancers in motion that is at once modern yet faithful to the Baroque style.
  • Equilibrium (BROTHERHOOD)’: Physicality, athleticism and grace convey the importance of male bonding, set to Kenji Bunch’s score; a premiere for NJPAC.
  • Vessels’: Italian composer Ezio Bosso’s music propels dancers in a tour de force conceived to impress with bravura dancing showcasing the technical and artistic potential of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s ensemble members. (See video excerpts.)
  • Change’ (NJPAC premiere): To traditional music, Dianne McIntyre’s choreography shows how black, brown and beige women inconspicuously effect change that transcends their communities and resounds worldwide.

Costumes

DTH’s Marketing Manager, Keyana K. Patterson, told Blasting News that the women’s ballet leotards are “a creative patchwork of tights worn by former Company dancers.

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Thus they perform clothed in the legacy of their predecessors.”

More to the pointe

In an exclusive interview, ensemble member Da' Von Doane (pronounced duhVAHN doan; rhymes with own) told Blasting News the pointe shoe’s color is brown, to more closely compliment most Company dancers’ skin tone. “It’s one more little thing that helps dancers feel more comfortable in their bodies.”

Eloquent dancer

Mr. Doane explains DTH’s purpose. Besides its inspiration in despair over Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the Company was also founded “to dispel the myth that African Americans and other dancers of non-white ethnicities can’t perform Classical ballet and to give people an opportunity to pursue their passions without fear of discrimination for race, body type or size.” Hoping for equality worldwide, Mr.

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Doane explains how DTH sets the example: “We have no ranks in the Company.” No principal dancers, everyone is an ensemble member.

Banishing man-made separators

The 28-year-old dancer says, “The #Black Lives Matter movement strives to prove we all are just one human race. People have divided us all into different ethnic groups attempting to make some artificially superior to others. But we’re really all the same. Our collective humanity brings us together. We can decide to build a brighter future for everyone, not just some. We must find the common thread that unites us, to solve problems like poverty, social class distinctions, and other divisive notions people have created.”

Homecoming

Da' Von Doane hails from Salisbury, MD., but moved at age 15 to Egg Harbor Township, N.J., allowing him to join Atlantic City Ballet. So his performance this Saturday is a sort of homecoming. Named in 2014 among Dance Magazine’s top 25 to watch, Mr. Doane last year received a personal invite to perform at the 2016 Vail International Dance Festival.

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While climbing the heights, performance photos of soaring leaps suggest being airborne and high-flying are practically where he lives. #Everything Music and Theatre