Dance Theatre of Harlem
Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) was co-founded in 1969 by then-New York City Ballet’s first African-American principal dancer, Arthur Mitchell, and his colleague and acclaimed ballet instructor, Karel Shook. Moved to action by the assassination of civil rights leader Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they sought to establish a center for excellence in classical dance instruction for the young people in Mitchell’s childhood neighborhood of Harlem. From these modest beginnings, Dance Theatre of Harlem rapidly grew to become a national and international cultural ambassador for American dance.
Dance Theatre of Harlem's unique legacy is three-fold. As the first permanent black ballet company in America, the organization has been distinguished by its artistic excellence, innovation, and history of having broadened and enriched the aesthetic parameters of the classical dance field within the United States. Over its 50-year history, DTH has performed in 250 cities in North America, in 44 states, and in 41 countries on 6 continents, inspiring diverse audiences with its vitality and expressive power. It has not only brought its fusion of ballet, modern and African-American dance to every corner of the United States, from local schools to The White House, it has carried the best of American culture to the rest of the world. In 1992, DTH marked the end of the U.S. boycott of South Africa and the fall of apartheid with its “Dancing Through Barriers” tour, during which Nelson Mandela declared, “this is one of the most delightful evenings I have enjoyed. I have forgotten all the troubles I have had in my life.” In 1999, in recognition of this commendable, multi-faceted legacy, Dance Heritage Coalition (DHC) and the Library of Congress elected Dance Theatre of Harlem to the list of “America’s 100 Irreplaceable Dance Treasures.”
This performance is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.
More About Dance Theatre of Harlem
For 50 years, Dance Theatre of Harlem has been dedicated to transforming lives through the power of its art and its vision of inclusion and access to all. Founded in 1969 by the legendary Arthur Mitchell and his former teacher, the late Karel Shook, DTH is a globally-acclaimed dance institution that has occupied a distinguished place in New York City’s cultural landscape and at the forefront of American artistic achievement.
Located on a block officially named “Dance Theatre of Harlem Way” in testament to its enduring legacy, DTH now comprises a professional touring company, a school, and a broad range of community programs. Under the leadership of Virginia Johnson, a former prima ballerina with the company who was appointed Artistic Director in 2010, the DTH mission has been revitalized to:
- Present a Company of African American and racially diverse artists who perform the most demanding repertory at the highest level of quality;
- Maintain a world-class school that trains young people in classical ballet and allied arts; and
- Provide arts education, community outreach, and positive role models for all.
The company is a racially diverse, 16-member professional dance ensemble that tours across national and international stages. The DTH Company has performed in 41 countries on six continents, in 44 states, and more than 250 cities across North America. Last year alone, the company performed for nearly 60,000 audience members across the U.S. and reached more than 6,000 during its home season at New York City Center.
Focused on a future that is characterized by expansion and engagement, the company brings together artists from various dance styles and disciplines (e.g. music, fashion) to create new works that influence and enhance the ballet art form. Committed to cultivating a community for dancers, choreographers, and other artists, the DTH company also serves as a pipeline for talent and an ambassador for connection on a local, national, and global level.
The DTH School provides classical ballet and dance training to children and youth from ages three to 18. Cultivating an expectation and spirit of excellence, the School invests in providing high-quality training while ensuring that students of diverse backgrounds feel inspired and supported. Within the walls of DTH, students can feel physically and emotionally safe and are encouraged to explore their greatest potential as artists.
Like the school and company, DTH’s Community Programs address the unique experience of artists of color and provide a forum where experiences of race and culture can be studied, expressed, experienced and discussed. DTH’s community offerings include its flagship Dancing Through Barriers® arts-in-education program, master classes, a Sunday Matinee concert series, open rehearsals and work-in-progress showings that provide insights into the creative process.