'Midtown Sunset' Radiates Energy

When music and movement are energetically fused, great things can happen. Such was the case Saturday night at Los Angeles Theatre Center, where the locally based company Jazzantiqua presented "Midtown Sunset," a jazz ballet suite celebrating the Harlem Renaissance. Inspired by the art of Romare Bearden and poetry of Langston Hughes, the previously seen work exudes a heartfelt and compelling honesty.

Jazzantiqua's director-choreographer Pat Taylor and composer-bassist Mark Shelby have crafted an elegantly spare world where the mood veers from slinky to sophisticated; naive to knowing. When the company bounds on stage to Shelby's music--performed live by his quintet--the dancers strut, leap, partner and spin as if in an organic response to the cool trumpet licks, hot saxophone wailings and smoky piano syncopations.

Valerie Hampton, a sexy Angela Bassett type, danced her solo, "Blue Monday," with in-your-face emotion. Her duet with Taylor, a dueling dancers' thing, proved witty and breezy, with the zaftig choreographer displaying airborne grace and agility.

Charles Zacharie's temperamental bare-chested solo ruled the stage with plaintive beauty and urban angst. Zacharie's fluid moves teemed with dynamite turns and sculptural friezes.

Other standouts: Maura Owens in a saucy number sans music; and the young apprentice Keith Parks, a chubby performer with a feathery countenance. Sylvester Weaver's lighting proved effective, while the uncredited costumes, however, were unimaginative, indeed, unflattering.

With freshness, style and exemplary skills, Jazzantiqua is an asset to the community.

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