Photo credit: Rachel Neville

Dance Theatre of Harlem is more than a dance company. They are culture.

Dance Theatre of Harlem does not just perform dance moves unimaginable beyond the eye. These elegant dancers bring ethnicity, culture, endurance and respect as soon as they step on the stage and the lights come…

Dance Theatre of Harlem does not just perform dance moves unimaginable beyond the eye. These elegant dancers bring ethnicity, culture, endurance and respect as soon as they step on the stage and the lights come on. As I watched these dancers jump, glide and balance, I was mesmerized how they did it with so much ease. Their facial expressions enhanced every movement from a jazz smile, to a sultry glance or even a stern glare. Without words, I was able to feel every emotion they exuded.

This event is family friendly and will capture everyone’s heart. The Aronoff Center provides cushions for children to sit on so they can see and don’t dominant their parent’s laps. The dancers are amazing and have immaculate bodies! I didn’t even know such definition of muscles in their arms, legs and core were possible. I honestly wanted to go to the gym that night and work on my arms. I also considered taking a beginning ballet course, but figured I should just focus on my arms and legs first.

Photo credit: Rachel Neville

Normally, I take my mom to these events with me. This time I opted to take my nine-year-old cousin. She attends School for Creative & Performing Arts in downtown Cincinnati with a focus in dance. She is always jamming to a beat, whether it is blaring from speakers or simply in her head. In preparation of her having to sit still in her seat during the performances, I let her look up her favorite YouTube videos and dance in the Aronoff lobby to work off some of her energy and show everyone how cute she is.

As soon as the dancers took the stage, I realized her lobby performance was not needed. Dance Theatre of Harlem commanded the attention of this 9-year-old. I watched her sit at the edge of her seat and follow the dancers’ movements with her eyes. She smiled at the turns and didn’t move a muscle as she watched both the men and women balance on their toes. It was almost as if she was calculating the stance in her head, remembering to try it later. 

Upbeat numbers of the night included “Harlem on My Mind.” This had people snapping and clapping along to the rhythm. A romantic number had much of the crowd humming “My Funny Valentine” as two performers intertwined with each other left to right. It seemed to remind people of a significant love, whether current or long gone. Either way, I loved how the audience was so engaged with the dancers. They didn’t just watch and clap at the end. They snapped, hummed, tapped their feet and watched the beautifully choreographed moves in awe.

Photo credit: Rachel Neville

My favorite performance of the evening was titled “Change.” It featured three women dressed in shades of brown and beige. It began with the repetitious sound of a large church bell. The women gathered and calmly moved around the stage in a peaceful manner. Then, a slow rendition of the gospel song “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around” began to play. I was able to connect with the dancers and their movements spiritually. Soon, the music stops and drums begin to bang. The moves of the women become firm and with purpose, as if they are protecting one another from whatever is coming. Their voices grunted loudly with passion as they kicked and jumped in the air. It was a powerful performance that showed the strength of women.

I wish I had attended the performance both nights. I’m sure there are some moments I missed because I was replaying my favorite dance numbers in my head. I encourage everyone to see Dance Theatre of Harlem when available. Even if it is not in Cincinnati, this dance company is worth the travel.

Marissa Staples is a Cincinnati published author and writer for “The Voice of Black Cincinnati.” She developed her love of arts from her mother, Kandi. Being a native of Cincinnati, she loves to travel. If she is not traveling, you can find her reading, writing, volunteering or drinking wine. Wine always brings smiles, friends and creative dialogue.