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Ballet Across America III-Program C by Carolyn Kelemen

Ballet Across America III-Program C: As American As Apple Pie

Hoist the flags. Toss the balloons. Throw some confetti, too. The third installment of Ballet Across America III (wrapping up at The Kennedy Center Opera House this afternoon) is a celebration of grass roots American ballet – toe shoes, tutus, a multi-cultured cast of youthful dancers, a mixed bag of ballets, and a joyful spirit that captures what this showcase is about.

Dance Theatre of Harlem' dancers in 'Gloria.' Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Dance Theatre of Harlem’ dancers in ‘Gloria.’ Photo by Matthew Murphy.


The North Carolina Dance Theatre opened with a crisp classical ballet by Sasha JanesRhapsodic Dances made its world premiere only a few months ago, but the company looked as if it had been dancing it for years. As a bonus, the luscious Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini score was performed live by The Kennedy Center Orchestra, conducted by Grant Cooper. Piano Soloist Arkadiy Figlin kept the dancers moving at a breakneck speed. Kudos to former New York City Ballet soloist, now Artistic Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, for the company’s repertory in the program and for what appears to be his sensitive direction of the Carolina company. We look forward to seeing his contributions in the future.

Hush was the sleek, contemporary ballet performed by Ballet Austin and directed by Stephen Mills who also choreographed this work, the final movement of his Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project. Composer Philip Glass again provided the score for the stylish 8 dancers who captured the swirling and repetitive sounds. It deserves another viewing, perhaps not placed in the middle of two stronger dances.

For this writer, the best part of BAA III was the return of Dance Theatre of Harlem to The Kennedy Center stage after a long hiatus due to economic problems, not talent. Founded by Arthur Mitchell soon after the death of Rev. Martin Luther King, DTH has been an ambassador to countries all over the world – the newly formed troupe just returned from Israel. Now under the artistic direction of Washington’s own Virginia Johnson, the company aims to please a mixed audience, young and old.

DTH danced the appropriately called Return, created in 1999 for the company’s 30thanniversary. A perfect closure the six-day event, here is a work for a city ballet troupe, the combination of hip urban dance steps  mixed with classical ballet and staged for 12 dancers to cool songs performed by James Brown and Aretha Franklin. Now what could be more American than that?

Running Time: Two hours, including two 20-minute intermissions.

Ballet Across Americas III Program C plays today at 1:30 PM at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, NW in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office (202) 467-4600, or purchase them online.




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Carolyn Kelemen
Carolyn Kelemen is an award-winning arts critic and feature writer for the Baltimore Sun, Howard County Times, and Columbia Flier - 45 years and counting. The Columbia resident earned her Masters Degree in Dance at Mills College in California and has taught college and graduate courses at Goucher College, Loyola, the College of Notre Dame and Howard Community College. A professional dancer throughout the East Coast in the late 50s and early 60s, she was trained in classical ballet, modern dance, jazz and tap. Her TV/film career includes MPT’s “ weeknight Alive” and years of local productions in the Maryland/DC area. Carolyn is a longtime member of the Dance Critics of America, the American Theatre Critics Association. She has proudly produced the “A Labor of Love” AIDS benefits since 1988.


  1. I disagree with this review. Ballet Austin’s Hush was the best part of the entire 3 installment of Ballet Across America III and the North Carolina Dance Theater looked like they could’ve used three more weeks of practice. Dance Theater of Harlem was outstanding and I’m happy they are back in action.

    Pretty much anyone in the audience would say the same, and judging by the fact that both Ballet Austin and Dance Theater of Harlem received standing ovations, I think the audience spoke for itself.


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