With bodies pulsing staccato in between arms and legs angling, angling and angling again, ten dancers of Elisa Monte Dance recreated Dreamtime, a classic 1986 work by the troupe’s eponymous choreographer and founder. For those of us who have read novels that attempt to capture Aboriginal culture and what seems to a literal-trapped Western mind as fuzzy lines between fantasy and reality, the choreography seems to shout to Aboriginal spirits- “Hey, I got you and I get you!” How perfect that the dancers one by one end in poses with hands aflutter and vibrating.
While Dreamtime may have similarly been the magnet that brought some in the door, the rest of this 38th Season Finale performance by Elisa Monte Dance was in no way lacking.
Elisa Monte Dance Presents Work-in-Progress for Harlem Renaissance Centennial
By this writer’s lights, the best came last in the performance of H.E.R., a work-in-progress to be premiered officially in the 2020 Harlem Stage celebration of the Harlem Renaissance Centennial. From the program notes we read that this work “pays homage to the artistic work and lives of three black, queer, playwrights/writers Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Mary Powell Burrill and Angelina Weld Grimke. “ That’s nice to know but in no way essential, in this writer’s view, to thoroughly enjoy this work. The costumes alone (Costumes: Rachel Dozier-Ezell) catapult you to the 1920’s – each dancer in perfect-for-jitterbug hat, party girl gloves and colorful loose flowing dress. Then the moves take over with a spot of Charleston here and round arms reaching out then up, mainly in an ensemble. You can’t help but notice that the eight dancers are all smiling. This is pure joy—powered by ragtime from Twelve45. If Harlem Stage is looking for a commercial for its upcoming celebration of the Harlem Renaissance, they sure seem to have hit pay dirt with Tiffany Rae-Fisher’s choreography.
Slated for a February, 2020 Premiere, H.E.R. was commissioned by Harlem Stage as part of their celebration of the Harlem Renaissance Centennial.
Choreography: Tiffany Rea-Fisher
Prior to this closer—or rather, before the finale dance lesson and Prosecco/chocolate Mother’s Day mingle for all the audience--Tiffany Rea-Fisher’s more somber And Then They Were gave the choreographer and troupe a chance to show new ways to put pointe in the mix. For this writer, it was also a chance to see and admire the physical strength of the dancers, and proved the perfect set up for the joy explosion of H.E.R. that followed.
There is a great energy that surrounds Elisa Monte Dance—from stage and audience alike. It’s difficult to imagine how watching this company would be anything other than time well-spent.
To learn more about Elisa Monte Dance visit and bookmark the Elisa Monte Dance website.
Editor's Note: Due to schedule confusion, this reviewer did not see the first work in this performance-- The Best-Self Project--by all accounts an energetic solo by JoVonna Parks that sparked the audience enthusiasm that continued throughout the afternoon's program.
All photos: Steven Pisano