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DANCE REVIEWS

'Firebird' Rises to Top of Uneven Program

February 12, 1996|CHRIS PASLES

Dance Theatre of Harlem justifiably brought down the house with its familiar production of "Firebird" at the end of a three-part program Saturday in Marsee Auditorium at the South Bay Center for the Arts in Torrance.

But before that, it had looked like a different company occupied with choreographically inferior works. All the music was prerecorded.

While the male corps bounded with crisp, clear energy in the would-be pizazz of Billy Wilson's "Concerto in F" (music by Gershwin), the women looked more tentative and scattershot, and ensembles generally were ragged.

Eddie J. Shellman brought intermittent star power to the first movement, opposite the sunny and accomplished Charmaine Hunter. Luis Dominguez and Keith Saunders were the languid buddies galvanized into competition over an electric Kellye Gordon. Still, it was all prefabricated glamour.

Christina Johnson was a fabulous Firebird. Lorraine Graves made an appealing Princess opposite the noble Donald Williams in "Firebird," but she danced with surprising stop-and-go caution in Ron Cunningham's episodic animal fable "Etosha" (music by Ginastera). Ryan Taylor brought strength to his duties, predatory and otherwise.

All would have been lost except for the commitment and artistry shown by the supple and fearless Tai Jimenez. She actually created sympathy for the doomed animal. Not easy in this simple-minded ballet.

Different casts were scheduled to repeat this program Sunday afternoon. On Friday and Saturday afternoon, the company danced works reviewed during its November engagement in Orange County.

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