Walter’s World: The Lark Ascends at Dance Theatre of Harlem

By Walter Rutledge

Thursday April 28th is the last studio showing of the Harlem Dance Works 2.0 at the Dance Theatre of Harlem. The series has offered both balletomanes and dance novices a rare glimpse into the creative process of choreographers Thaddeus Davis and Tanya Wideman. This week the series is taking a very different route, it will present The Lark Ascending a masterwork by dance legend Ailey Alvin.

The Lark Ascending is set to the violin and orchestra composition of the same name by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Written in 1914 the music was inspired by George Meredith‘s 122-line poem; which is also entitled The Lark Ascending, it is about the skylark. The outbreak of World War One halted William’s work on the composition, it received its official premiere in 1920. The impressionistic feel of the music gives it a freedom that is ideal for dance.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbcuteYm-EA&w=560&h=349]

In 1972 The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater premiered The Lark Ascending. Clive Thompson and Sara Yarborough performed the work, which received immediate acclaim. Yarborough is a classically trained dancer who performed with the Harkness Ballet of New York, and Dance Theatre of Harlem.


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Ailey used the dream like quality of the music to his artistic advantage, and produced an extremely lyrical and romantic work. The Lark Ascending requires a high level of technical proficiency, and an even more substantial artistic commitment. The masterwork remains in the Ailey repertoire and was recently performed in the 2009 season.

The Harlem Dance Works 2.0 series was initiated to assist in developing the repertoire for the revitalization of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. The company is scheduled to make its debut in the 2012 – 2013 season. It will be a leaner company, so the works performed will reflect this new energy and élan. The inclusion of Alvin Ailey’s The Lark Ascending would be a welcome and timeless addition.

The program will also feature guest performers from Ronald K. Brown/ Evidence. Evidence celebrated the 25th anniversary of the company this year; and in 1988 Brown studied choreography at Dance Theatre of Harlem with Bessie Schonberg. For more information about the Harlem Dance Works 2.0 visit the website at www.dancetheatreofharlem.org

In Photo 1) Linda Celeste Sims 2) Tina Yuan and Clive Thompson

Photo credits: 1) Donald Moss 2) Andrea Mohin

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