Long before Misty Copeland was engaged as the first principal African-American female dancer at American Ballet Theatre, there was the Dance Theatre of Harlem, launched in 1969, just a year after the Boys Choir of Harlem. Both these groups were formed in direct reaction to the 1968 murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., as their founders – Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook (DTH) and Walter Turnbull (BCH) – struggled to provide new meaning for life in artistic creativity for young people. Both groups attained world-wide fame and recognition. The DTH is still at it. And the DTH will play the Carolina Theatre, in Durham, on one night only, this Friday, February 5.
In Durham, the program will include CHANGE, a new piece premiered this week in Columbia, SC, choreographed by Dianne McIntyre, performed to traditional spiritual music sung by the Spelman College Glee Club and original music by Eli Fountain.
DANCING ON THE FRONT PORCH OF HEAVEN, choreographed by Ulysses Dove and performed to the music of Arvo Pärt; and
RETURN, choreographed by DTH resident choreographer Robert Garland and performed to the music of Aretha Franklin and James Brown.
Here’s the DTH’s statement of purpose, reprinted from its website: “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 fourth 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.”
The ensemble tours infrequently this far from its home base, so this Durham performance is self-recommending. We’ll be there to report on it, after the fact. Dance enthusiasts are urged to join us for this rare evening of dance.