A packed audience at Northrop auditorium could barely contain its enthusiasm when the Dance Theatre of Harlem took the stage Friday night.

The effervescent music of Stevie Wonder helped to turn up the vivacious energy. And then there was the choreography by Robert Garland. His "Higher Ground" infused the atmosphere with socially conscious funk, as dancers mixed exquisitely executed ballet moves with a lively dance floor vernacular.

Adding to the robust piece were the orange-hued earthtone costumes designed by Pamela Allen-Cummings that glowed in the rainbow lighting by Roma Flowers. The ensemble began the piece in an enclosed circle, almost like a prayer, as the speakers played Wonder's "Look Around." The work had a hopeful feeling, with the dancers reaching toward the sky, holding hands, and moving as a spiritually connected group.

From there, the dancers showed their raised fists, emblematic of the Black Power movement, as the piece moved through historical moments since the civil rights era. Set to a peppy beat, Garland's choreography utilized shape-making gestures as well as a loose groove to the dancers' hips.

He also captured the antithesis inherent in Wonder's "Village Ghetto Land," which contrasts stark imagery of poverty and blight with a Baroque-sounding synthesizer. With tiny pointed kicks, pointed toes and an elegant precision, dancers Amanda Smith, Daphne Lee and Alexandra Hutchinson carried forward the notion of resilience.

After the first intermission, "Passage," choreographed by Claudia Schreier in 2019, was made in recognition of the 400th anniversary of ships carrying enslaved Africans to America. In the work, Schreier painted vivid, narrative imagery set to Jessie Montgomery's luscious contemporary classical score.

Undulating bodies of several dancers buoyed through the air as they were carried by other dancers across the stage. The choreography harkened the feeling of waves rolling through the ocean.

The sailing imagery was repeated throughout the work. It also featured other symbolic moments of America's dark history of slavery, including a grab of the wrist and dragging it across the floor. One heart-pounding moment saw two dancers face off, their muscles clenched, as one seemed to take the other's soul.

Schreier's work never felt exploitative. Rather, like Garland's "Higher Ground," it offered beautiful transcendence.

Rounding out the evening was a fun piece choreographed by Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa called "Balamouk," named after an album by the French band Les Yeux Noirs. The fantastical, jazzy piece was filled with unusual shapes and poses, with the highlight being an insect-inspired shadow play.

Each of the three dances in the concert received standing ovations, and cheers erupted throughout the evening.