Peter London has been a revered and beloved dance teacher at the New World School of the Arts since its launch in 1987, and his devotion and success as a mentor were apparent in the Peter London Global Dance Company concert Sunday evening at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. His troupe consists of 13 impressive current or recent New World students, and three alums now with major New York companies returned as guest stars.
“We owe a lot to him,” Lloyd Knight, a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company, told the audience in a pre-performance appeal for financial support. “As much as you can do to help him out would be wonderful.” Added fellow New World alum and Graham dancer Mariya Dashkina Maddux: “There are sprouts [from Miami] all over the world because of Peter.”
London told the crowd he aims to showcase Miami’s multicultural talent and provide opportunities that will help keep dancers here. “Part of the idea is to celebrate all of who we are,” he said during the half-hour of speeches and appeals that preceded the show.
But London’s sincerity and goodwill aren’t matched by his choreographic skill. His pieces show off the dancers’ physical beauty and accomplishment in the muscular, sculptural technique and style of modern pioneers Graham and Lestor Horton that he teaches. But they feel mostly like a series of poses and impressive moves — high-raised legs, arching torsos, leaps, long balances — strung together under a vaguely defined concept.
Stand, inspired partly by the situation of Haitian women in post-earthquake camps, had the powerful Anasthasia Grand-Pierre leading five women wearing bushy skirts and bikini tops made of newspaper, alternating perfect arabesques with scrabbling, begging motions.
In the vaguely ritualistic Rain & Wings, inspired by Native American culture, Sasha Caicedo (in a leather-look bikini top and micro-mini designed by London, who did costumes for all his pieces), rippled her arms atop lunges and arabesques to meandering New Age music.
Compact, sinuous and airborne Johan Rivera was electrifying as one of two lovers in London’s version of Carmen, with Stephanie Fuentes in the title role, but there was no heat or dramatic tension in her duets with him or rival Adam Le Guerre.
The Secret, inspired by Malian culture and set to pulsing Malian music by Vieux Farka Toure, also featured strong, beautiful dancing from Leon Cobb and Michael Alonzo Supado Brown. But the dance had little design or apparent relationship to African culture and only the barest reference to African dancing, as did garish costumes that included tight red briefs with chartreuse feathers for the men and poufy micro minis for the women.
A work in progress from La Michael Leonard, a guest from the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, included some intriguing, idiosyncratic gesture set amid repetitive walking patterns for 10 dancers, but was clearly unfinished. It was disappointing that the Graham guest stars, Lloyd and Maddux, performed a duet from Graham’s bombastic late period, 1981’s Acts of Light, rather than one of her earlier masterworks.
The program, which was overly long at 2 1/2 hours, ended with London’s celebratory Shango & Oshun, evoking Trinidadian and Caribbean carnival.