Dance Theatre of Harlem: Public Talk with Virginia Johnson & William Forsythe
Public Talk
Dance Theatre of Harlem

Choreographers in Conversation

with Virginia Johnson and William Forsythe
July 21, 2022

This event occurred as part of the 22/23 Public Talk season. This is an archived view.

This event has been canceled.

22/23 Public Talk

The groundbreaking choreographer and DTH Artistic Director take us behind the scenes of the new iteration of playful and scintillating "Barre Project" in a talk moderated by Hop Executive Director Mary Lou Aleskie.

For a half century, Forsythe has been pushing the boundaries of classical and contemporary dance and creating innovative performances in collaboration with musicians, dancers and other artists. Inspired by the barre—the foundation of ballet training—The Barre Project was originally created entirely over zoom during the pandemic and filmed on the empty stage of a California theater. The project consists of five musical episodes that focus on the barre with classical choreography to the propulsive and rigorously structured music of composer and vocalist James Blake.  
During the company's summer residency at the Hop, Forsythe conceives a more expansive staging of The Barre Project for Dance Theatre of Harlem, featuring newly choreographed sections that highlight the dancing identities and talents of the ensemble. It is a distinct version of the ballet that is unique to this company alone.

The Barre Project is a "…love letter to dancers, to technique, to the possibilities of the ballet barre." (Fjord Review).

The Barre Project: Blakeworks IV will premiere in January 2023 at Penn Live Arts.

Generously supported by the Nathan W. Pearson 1932 and Sons Fund and the Arthur J. 1903 and Nellie Z. Cohen Fund.

Virginia Johnson

A founding member of Dance Theatre of Harlem, Virginia Johnson 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, DC, 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. She went on to be a University Scholar in the School of the Arts at New York University before joining Dance Theatre of Harlem. Virginia 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 Award, the Dance Magazine Award, a Pen and Brush Achievement Award, the Washington Performing Arts Society's 2008-2009 Pola Nirenska Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2009 Martha Hill Fund Mid-Career Award.

William Forsythe

Raised in New York and initially trained in Florida with Nolan Dingman and Christa Long, William Forsythe danced with the Joffrey Ballet and later the Stuttgart Ballet, where he was appointed Resident Choreographer in 1976. Over the next seven years, he created new works for the Stuttgart ensemble and ballet companies in Munich, The Hague, London, Basel, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Paris, New York, and San Francisco. In 1984, he began a 20-year tenure as director of the Ballet Frankfurt.

After the closure of the Ballet Frankfurt in 2004, Forsythe established a new ensemble, The Forsythe Company, which he directed from 2005 to 2015. Forsythe's works developed during this time were performed exclusively by The Forsythe Company, while his earlier pieces are prominently featured in the repertoire of virtually every major ballet company in the world, including the Mariinsky Ballet, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Semperoper Ballet Dresden, England's Royal Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet. More recently Forsythe has created original works for the Paris Opera Ballet (Blake Works I), English National Ballet (Playlist (Track 1,2)), Boston Ballet (Playlist (EP)), as well as A Quiet Evening of Dance produced by Sadler's Wells Theatre (London) and The Barre Project (Blake Works II) created for the digital stage.

Awards received by Forsythe and his ensembles include the New York Dance and Performance "Bessie" Award (1988, 1998, 2004, 2007) and London's Laurence Olivier Award (1992, 1999, 2009). Forsythe has been conveyed the title of Commandeur des Arts et Lettres (1999) by the government of France and has received the Hessischer Kulturpreis/ Hessian Culture Award (1995), the German Distinguished Service Cross (1997), the Wexner Prize (2002) the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale (2010), the Samuel H Scripps / American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement (2012) and the German Theater Award FAUST for Lifetime Achievement (2020).

As an educator, Forsythe is regularly invited to lecture and give workshops at universities and cultural institutions. In 2002, Forsythe was chosen as one the founding Dance Mentor for The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. Forsythe is an Honorary Fellow at the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance in London and holds an Honorary Doctorate from The Juilliard School in New York.

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