Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem

A three-summer collaboration between the Hop and a company whose artistic vision remains one of the most forward-looking and democratic in dance.

For more than half a century, the Dance Theatre of Harlem has redefined who dances and what dance is. Begun at the height of the civil rights movement as outreach to the historically African American New York City neighborhood of Harlem, DTH's vision remains one of the most democratic in dance.

Starting in the summer of 2020, the Hopkins Center for the Arts is embarking on a three-summer collaboration with DTH that is intended to include on-campus summer residencies, class visits and workshops by the company.

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Monica White Ndounou and John Heginbotham
Monica White Ndounou & John Heginbotham

During the summer of 2020, the collaboration includes Dartmouth course THEA 10.57 / AAAS 31.10 Dance Theatre Of Harlem Workshop: The Hazel Scott Project, Artist As Activist. The course focuses on a current DTH project to create a dance work honoring the life and legacy of Hazel Scott. Scott was a black piano virtuoso, cafe society "darling" and Hollywood trailblazer who risked it all through outspoken civil rights activism that made her a political target. It will be co-taught by Monica White Ndounou, associate professor of theater and scholar of African American performing arts and film; and John Heginbotham, theater lecturer and director of the Dartmouth Dance Ensemble; and will feature guest visits by the young, dynamic members of DTH. 

About the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Now a singular presence in the ballet world, the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company tours nationally and internationally, presenting a powerful vision for ballet in the 21st century. The 18-member, multi-ethnic company performs a forward-thinking repertoire that includes treasured classics, neoclassical works by George Balanchine and resident choreographer Robert Garland, as well as innovative contemporary works that use the language of ballet to celebrate African American culture. Through performances, community engagement and arts education, the Company carries forward Dance Theatre of Harlem's message of empowerment through the arts for all.

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George Balanchine and Arthur Mitchell
George Balanchine & Arthur Mitchell

Arthur Mitchell created the company in New York City, after making history in 1955 as the first black principal dancer at New York City Ballet. He was also the famed protégé of George Balanchine—the Russian-born dancer, choreographer and co-founder of the School of American Ballet. Mitchell's impulse to start Dance Theatre of Harlem is said to have been spurred by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. At the height of the civil rights movement, in a graceful moment of artistic resistance, he created a haven for dancers of all colors who craved training, performance experience and an opportunity to excel in the classical ballet world. 

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Karel Shook and Arthur Mitchell
Karel Shook & Arthur Mitchell

To accommodate his growing roster of students, Mitchell eventually partnered with his former ballet master Karel Shook to help him run the school and direct what would eventually become Dance Theatre of Harlem. The company would grow to have a lasting impact on the American ballet scene and become a beacon for black dancers worldwide. It was a pioneer in the dance world, integrating stages and spreading the art of ballet through massive outreach programs at home and abroad.

DTH "was not about making a 'black ballet company,'" said current Artistic Director Virginia Johnson,  a founding DTH company member and former principal dancer of the company. "It was to make people aware of the fact that this beautiful art form actually belongs to and can be done by anyone. [Founder] Arthur Mitchell created this space for a lot of people who had been told, 'You can't do this,' to give them a chance to do what they dreamed of doing."