It’s a hot Harlem night

Times Staff Writer

After the standing ovation and numerous curtain calls on the first night of the sold-out Dance Theatre of Harlem performances, the company’s founder and artistic director Arthur Mitchell purred to Liane Weintraub, “I should be nice to you.”

Weintraub and her Center Dance Assn. are helping to return dance in a major way to the Music Center. Mitchell’s company was the second to perform in this inaugural season, an ambitious undertaking that is filling dates left open after the Los Angeles Philharmonic moved into Disney Hall.

At the post-performance reception Jan. 3 in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s ornate Founders Room, Mitchell held court while his dancers headed for the bar, gathered on the sofas and mingled with the invitation-only guests.

Gordon Davidson, artistic director of the Mark Taper Forum, compared notes with Mitchell on their education programs for children, who, they insist, must become the audiences of the future. Next in line to chat with Mitchell -- who says he will be 70 on his next birthday -- was Alyce Williamson, a CDA board member. She had hoped to make a career of dance until her mother refused to allow her to join the Martha Graham company.


Elizabeth Hirsch, another board member, asked ballet mistress Eve Lawson to introduce her to muscleman Ramon Thielen, who danced the role of Death in the jazzy production of “St. Louis Woman: A Blues Ballet.”

The contemporary work also appealed to 14-year-old Leslie Brian, while her mother, Claire Siegel Brian, raved about the beautifully danced “quintessential Balanchine” ballet “Serenade.” Nearly 30 years ago, she introduced her love of ballet to her husband, Brad Brian, co-chair with Weintraub of the Music Center Presenting Committee.

Principal dancer Lenore Pavlakos, who dueted with Kip Sturm, as the waltz couple in “Serenade, applauded the enthusiastic audience. “When the curtain goes up, there’s always a sense of stillness,” the leading ballerina said. “When we start to dance, the energy from the audience ... is like an adrenaline shot.”