You don’t have to have been around in the ’60s to know that this was a heady time in racial politics: Civil Rights was a Movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, the Panthers, SNCC were the focus of civil rights activity.
The arts played their part as well. Alvin Ailey chose to tell the story of African Americans in modern dance, with Revelations as the pinnacle of his legacy.
Arthur Mitchell took a more classical, balletic approach. A former principal with New York City Ballet under George Ballanchine, Mitchell went on to appear in several Broadway shows. After the assassination of Reverand King, he returned to Harlem, determined to give black youngsters the opportunities Mitchell had had through dance training. In 1969, Mitchell and Karel Shook formed the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Ailey’s company has thrived, even after the death of its founder. DTH has had its struggles. In late 2004, the core company went on a hiatus, while the DTH Ensemble, the performing arm of the school, continued performance around the globe. The 82-year-old Mitchell, a Kennedy Center honoree in 1993, is a Director Emeritus of DTH. Today, DTH is shepherded by Artistic Director Virginia Johnson, who joined DTH in 1969 and was a lead dancer with the company for 28 years.
During this “Return New York” season, April 6th through 9th at New York City Center, the final evening will be dedicated to a celebration of black ballerinas from dance troupes all over the country. In the 1960s, when DTH was founded, this kind of event could only have been a dream.
Visit the DTH calendar, for tickets and information.
The programs will feature pieces choreographed by women dancemakers:
Divertimento (NY Premiere) Elena Kunikova
When Love Helen Pickett
Change (NY Premiere) Dianne McIntyre
Coming Together Nacho Duato
Return Robert Garland
Pièce d’occasion: Gladys Knight Tribute