DTH Celebrates 50 Years of Ballet Inclusivity
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 04:17 pm EST 02/08/19

FEBRUARY 11, 1969

Co-Founders Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook Respond to the Assassination of
the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
With a Call for Diversity in a Predominately White Artform

50 Years Later, We Celebrate Their Vision and Legacy with
Founders’ Week Events, Celebrating the Birth of Dance Theatre of Harlem and
Kicking off the 50th Anniversary Celebration!

This Monday, February 11 marks the 50th Anniversary – to the day – when, in response to the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the lack of opportunities for people of color to train and perform classical ballet, former New York City Ballet dancer Arthur Mitchell – the first black dancer to be elevated to Principal – created, along with Karel Shook, the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Originally conceived and opened as a classical ballet school for the children in his Harlem neighborhood in 1969, Mr. Mitchell soon formed a performance company drawing from the students trained in the school. Led by his passion and determination, the DTH School and Company thrive today and we celebrate their vision and legacy for a classical ballet company for all.

To commemorate the February 11, 1969 founding of DTH, the organization has planned a series of events to honor its late founders, Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, celebrating 50 years of transforming lives through access, opportunity and excellence, including:

February 10
•Founders’ Day Sunday Matinee Community Celebration hosted by DTH Alumnus Vernon Ross, featuring performances by the DTH School, students from The Ailey School, National Black Theater and more, 3pm*

February 11
•FREE Beginner Ballet Class, 7:30pm-8:45pm*

February 12
•”Classically Harlem” Lecture Demonstration featuring DTH Company and School at the World-Famous Apollo Theater—Invited Public and Private Schools Only
•FREE Fitness Class for Adults, 7:30pm-8:45pm*

February 13
•FREE Advanced Technique Ballet Master Class with former DTH principal Cassandra Phifer-Moore, 5pm-6:30pm*
•FREE Conversation and Q&A with Former DTH principal Cassandra Phifer Moore, 6:30pm-7:30pm*
•FREE Advanced Beginner/Intermediate Ballet Class for Adults, 7:30pm-8:45pm

February 14
•FREE Thursdays@DTH open rehearsal of new ballet by Robert Garland
Dessert reception follows with DTH Company artists*
•FREE Fitness Class for Adults, 7:30pm-8:45pm*

February 15
•FREE New York Public Library Performing Arts Event—Dance Theatre of Harlem Founders’ Week: Fifty Years of History // Film and discourse about the early years of Dance Theatre of Harlem with Dance Curator Emeritus Jan Schmidt and DTH Alumni

February 16
•“Classically Harlem” Lecture Demonstration featuring DTH Company and Students at the World-Famous Apollo Theater. www.ApolloTheater.org for tickets and info

*Events held at Dance Theatre of Harlem, 466 West 152nd Street, New York City.

The 50th Anniversary celebration continues throughout the year as Dance Theatre of Harlem (Virginia Johnson, Artistic Director; Anna Glass, Executive Director) pays tribute to the life and legacy of its late Co-Founding Director Arthur Mitchell with performances across the United States, including the annual NYC homecoming season at New York City Center (131 West 55th Street), kicking off with its Vision Gala, in Mr. Mitchell’s honor, on April 10.

Over the course of the next 19 months, audiences across the country can see DTH in Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle, Albuquerque, Washington, D.C., venues in North Carolina, South Carolina, and more. Performances will include premieres of commissioned works by Pam Tanowitz, Claudia Schreier with Composer Jessie Montgomery, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and DTH Resident Choreographer Robert Garland, and collaborations with Miami City Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Peter London Global Dance Company and Collage Dance Collective. For more information about the ongoing 50th Anniversary Tour, please visit www.DanceTheatreofHarlem.org

Dance Theatre of Harlem
Program Highlights Through July 2019

Feb 9: Eisenhower Hall Theatre, West Point, NY
Feb 19: Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, Boone, NC
Feb 23: UNC Wilmington / Kenan Auditorium, Wilmington, NC
Feb 26: Hayes Hall, Naples, FL
Mar 1-2: Annenberg Center, Philadelphia
Robert Garland World Premiere
Mar 11-14 August Wilson Center, Pittsburgh, PA
Two-week residency collaboration with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre of performances and community engagement activities.
Apr 10-13: New York City Center, NYC – Full programming details below
Vision Gala, alumni celebration, talkbacks and more
Apr 17: Popejoy Hall, Albuquerque
Apr 27-28: Seattle Theatre Group, Seattle
May 3-4: Virginia Arts Festival, Norfolk
Claudia Schreier World Premiere
May 8: Kravis Center, West Palm Beach, FL
May 11: Peace Center, Greenville, NC
May 28-31: Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. – Ballet Across America
New ballet by Claudia Schreier, Dougla with Collage Dance Collective, and Pam Tanowitz World Premiere with Miami City Ballet
July 10-14: Jacob’s Pillow, Beckett, MA

For its New York City Center engagement, kicking off with its annual Vision Gala on April 10, DTH will present a reimagined version of Co-Founder Arthur Mitchell’s 1971 ballet, Tones, which he began setting on the current company, renaming it Tones II, right before his sudden death. Other highlights of the NYC season include a world premiere by DTH Resident Choreographer Robert Garland, a New York premiere by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, and the return of Geoffrey Holder’s sensational Dougla, lovingly revived last year by his widow Carmen de Lavallade and son Leo Holder.

Dance Theatre of Harlem’s 50th Anniversary New York City Center Programming

50th Anniversary Celebration Honoring Arthur Mitchell
An evening highlighting 50 years of thrilling dance including excerpts from such iconic DTH repertoire as The Greatest (Arthur Mitchell), Return (Robert Garland), Creole Giselle (Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot), Agon (George Balanchine), Forces of Rhythm (Louis Johnson), Firebird (John Taras), Le Corsaire (Marius Petipa), a special performance of Arthur Mitchell’s Bach Passacaglia by the Dance Theatre of Harlem School, and the spectacular and elegant pageantry of Geoffrey Holder’s Dougla closes the program.

Annual Vision Gala, Celebrating the 50th Anniversary with Dinner and Dancing at the Ziegfeld Ballroom, follows the performance. Tickets start at $1500. For more information or to purchase tickets, info@dwightjohnsondesign.com
or (212) 889-4694.

Classic DTH
Nyman String Quartet # 2 Robert Garland
Balamouk Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Tones II Arthur Mitchell
Dougla Geoffrey Holder
Stay for a special post-performance conversation celebrating Arthur Mitchell with Artistic Director Virginia Johnson and founding Dance Theatre of Harlem company members.

Family Matinée
Nyman String Quartet # 2 Robert Garland
The Greatest Arthur Mitchell
Dougla Geoffrey Holder
Meet the Ballerina Event Immediately Following the Performance

Classic DTH
Nyman String Quartet # 2 Robert Garland
Balamouk Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Tones II Arthur Mitchell
Dougla Geoffrey Holder

Closing Night Party
For Saturday Evening ticket holders 21 years of age and older. Space is limited.
Pre-registration is required after ticket purchase. Visit www.DanceTheatreofHarlem.org.

Arthur Mitchell was known around the world for creating and sustaining the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the internationally acclaimed ballet company he co-founded with Karel Shook in 1969. Following a brilliant career as a principal artist with the New York City Ballet, Mr. Mitchell dedicated his life to changing perceptions and advancing the art form of ballet through the first permanently established African American and racially diverse ballet company.

Born in New York City in 1934, Mr. Mitchell began his dance training at New York City's High School of the Performing Arts, where he won the coveted annual dance award and subsequently a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet. In 1955, he became the first African American to become a permanent member of a major ballet company when he joined New York City Ballet. Mr. Mitchell rose quickly to the rank of Principal Dancer during his fifteen-year career with New York City Ballet and electrified audiences with his performances in a broad spectrum of roles. Upon learning of the death of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and with financial assistance from Mrs. Alva B. Gimbel, the Ford Foundation and his own savings, Mr. Mitchell founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with his mentor and ballet instructor Karel Shook.

With an illustrious career that spanned over fifty years, Mr. Mitchell was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, a National Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the New York Living Landmark Award, the Handel Medallion, the NAACP Image Award, and more than a dozen honorary degrees. Mr. Mitchell passed away on September 19th, 2018 at the age of 84.

Virginia Johnson (Artistic Director) is a founding member of Dance Theatre of Harlem and was one of its principal ballerinas over a career that spanned nearly 30 years. After retiring in 1997, Ms. Johnson went on to found Pointe Magazine and was editor-in-chief for 10 years. A native of Washington, D.C., Ms. Johnson began her training with Therrell Smith. She studied with Mary Day at the Washington School of Ballet and graduated from the Academy of the Washington School of Ballet and went on to be a University Scholar in the School of the Arts at New York University before joining Dance Theatre of Harlem. Ms. Johnson is universally recognized as one of the great ballerinas of her generation and is perhaps best known for her performances in the ballets Giselle, A Streetcar Named Desire and Fall River Legend. She has received such honors as a Young Achiever Award from the National Council of Women, Outstanding Young Woman of America, the Dance Magazine Award, a Pen and Brush Achievement Award, the Washington Performing Arts Society’s 2008-2009 Pola Nirenska Lifetime Achievement Award
Dance Theatre of Harlem is a leading dance institution of unparalleled global acclaim, encompassing a performing Ensemble, a leading arts education center and Dancing Through Barriers®, a national and international education and community outreach program. Each component of Dance Theatre of Harlem carries a solid commitment towards enriching the lives of young people and adults around the world through the arts. Founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, Dance Theatre of Harlem was considered “one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings” (The New York Times, 1971). Shortly after the assassination of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mitchell was inspired to start a school that would offer children — especially those in Harlem, the community in which he was born — the opportunity to learn about dance and the allied arts. Now in its fifth decade, Dance Theatre of Harlem has grown into a multi-cultural dance institution with an extraordinary legacy of providing opportunities for creative expression and artistic excellence that continues to set standards in the performing arts. Dance Theatre of Harlem has achieved unprecedented success, bringing innovative and bold new forms of artistic expression to audiences in New York City, across the country and around the world.

Dance Theatre of Harlem is currently celebrating its 50th Anniversary with a national tour honoring the life and legacy of its Co-Founder Arthur Mitchell. From April 10-13, the company will perform four shows in New York City, opening with its annual Vision Gala, at New York City Center (131 West 55th Street). For more information about Dance Theatre of Harlem and where you can see a performance near you, please visit www.DanceTheatreOfHarlem.org.

Follow Dance Theatre of Harlem on Instagram and Facebook: @DanceTheatreOfHarlem; YouTube: Dance Theatre of Harlem; and Twitter: @DTHBallet

* * *

The 50th Anniversary Commissioned Ballets are supported by the Arthur Mitchell Project Foundation, Ford Foundation, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts/National Dance Project with additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New York City Center, O'Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation, Princess Grace Foundation - USA, Seattle Theatre Group, Virginia Arts Festival, and Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Leadership Support of the 50th Anniversary provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies

Additional organizational support provided by:
Anonymous; The Arnhold Foundation; The Arts Federation; Con Edison Foundation; The Dauray Fund; Disney Worldwide Services; The Jarvis and Constance Doctorow Family Foundation; Elephant Rock Foundation; Ford Foundation; Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation; Howard Gilman Foundation; The DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund, The Klein Family Foundation; George Lucas Family Foundation; John L. McHugh Foundation; New York Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer; City Council Member Mark Levine; Seventh C.D.; City Council Member Bill Perkins; Ninth C.D.; and the Manhattan Borough Delegation; Margaret T. Morris Foundation; New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellowships; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; Tatiana Piankova Foundation; May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation; The Shubert Foundation; The Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; and The Thompson Family Foundation.

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