When Dance Theatre of Harlem teamed up with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for a run of sold-out performances in 2017, audiences called for an encore. DTH returns to Pittsburgh to celebrate diversity, collaboration and education for two weeks of performances and programs. Here are five things you need to know about the past, present and future of Dance Theatre of Harlem.
- It has its roots in civil rights. Dance Theatre of Harlem was formed in 1968, at the height of the civil rights movement, by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook. The inspiration to start the school, and eventually the company, is said to have been sparked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dance Theatre of Harlem’s early days were housed in an old garage, doors wide open for passersby to see inside.
- Co-Founder Arthur Mitchell made history himself. In 1955, he became the first black principal dancer at New York City Ballet. He was the protege of famed choreographer George Balanchine, who created a pas de deux for Mitchell in which he was partnered with a white woman. “This was 1957,” Mitchell told the LA times in 2010, “before civil rights… The skin colors were part of the choreography. He saw what was going to happen in the world and put it on stage.”
- DTH made sure dance was for everyone… From the very beginning, a founding tennant of Dance Theatre of Harlem was its inclusivity. Opening the school, Mitchell and Shook created a space for dancers of every color and background to express themselves freely. Dress codes were relaxed to encourage students who might feel uncomfortable in traditional ballet school attire to enroll. The result was a lasting impact on the dance world.
- …and still does. Dance Theatre of Harlem has become a beacon of inclusion, innovation and moving art. The diversity championed by Mitchell and dancer Virginia Johnson – now DTH’s artistic director – built a company on which a cohesive identity was bolstered by the individual energy of each dancer. It’s shattered the idea of the cookie cutter dancer and showcases a diverse company in an art form that was once thought to be for only specific body types.
- PBT + DTH is back! After an exciting partnership in 2017, Dance Theatre of Harlem returns to Pittsburgh to share the stage with PBT at the August Wilson Cultural Center once again. A cumulative century of dance experience unites these two companies as they perform together in Stanton Welch’s expressive Orange and reach into their respective repertoire for repertory signatures.
Because of Arthur Mitchell’s drive and the continued work of artists like Virginia Johnson, Dance Theatre of Harlem remains a beacon for the ballet world. PBT is thrilled to partner with such a renowned company once again. Join us at the August Wilson Cultural Center from March 15-24 as we celebrate the incredible work, moving art and collaboration of Dance Theatre of Harlem.