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Black Entertainment Television (BET) featuring Dance Theatre of Harlem!
1955 – 1969
In 1955 a miracle happened. Arthur Mitchell, an African-American ballet dancer selected by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, joined the New York City Ballet. This historic occurrence in pre-civil rights America set the stage for many firsts by Mitchell, which changed the face and future of dance forever.
Through roles choreographed by Balanchine specifically for Mitchell, such as the pas de deux in Agon and the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, he honed his craft to become a principal dancer with NYCB for 15 years.
The Birth of Dance Theatre of Harlem
In 1969, shortly after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Nurtured by the optimism and idealism of the Civil Rights Era, the school began with classes taught in a garage on 152nd Street in Harlem, the community in New York City in which Arthur Mitchell grew up. The school's curriculum was designed to give the children of Harlem the same opportunities Mitchell had as a teenager. Dance Theatre of Harlem flourished and the nucleus of a professional company was born.
One of the benchmarks of the school became the "Open House Series", which opens the doors of Dance Theatre of Harlem to showcase the activities of the professional Company, DTH Ensemble, students from the school as well as guest artists from all disciplines. These informal studio performances are a community concert series that continues today, offering quality entertainment at nominal ticket prices to families living in Harlem and the New York Metropolitan area.
1970 - 1979
A Decade of Triumph for Dance Theatre of Harlem
Almost immediately, Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook began an education-outreach program, which was eventually called Arts Exposure, giving lecture-demonstrations and small performances at public schools, colleges and universities to give the dancers experience in performing. In 1971, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City a neoclassical ballet company named "Dance Theatre of Harlem" made its debut. Later that year, George Balanchine invited Arthur Mitchell to co-choreograph Concerto for Jazz Band and Orchestra in an exciting collaboration between New York City Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem.
By 1979, DTH had toured internationally, had three successful Broadway seasons, received critical acclaim for a public television Great Performances – Dance in America special, expanded its repertory to 46 ballets and formed a choral and percussion ensemble. In the course of this lively decade, what begun as a modest performing company became a major force and established itself as something very unique and deeply needed on the scene of contemporary dance. What started out as a natural resource became a national and international resource; a moving, innovative force in dance, theatre and education.
1980 - 1989
Dance Theatre of Harlem, a World-Class Neoclassical Ballet Company
In the 1980's, spectacular productions and rave reviews from the performances of Firebird, Creole Giselle ,Scheherazade, Bugaku, Agon, and Dougla to name a few, have carved a niche for Dance Theatre of Harlem. The repertory is grounded in neoclassical technique, which enables DTH artists to dance all styles.
The verve in which the company performed, incorporating brilliant costuming and elaborate set designs is an indication to audiences that DTH is a major "tour de force" in dance. As the signature of this decade, Dance Theatre of Harlem was the first American ballet company to perform in Russia as a part of a cultural exchange initiative sponsored mutually by the United States and Russia (formerly the Soviet Union.) One of the highlights of this groundbreaking tour was the company's induction into the Kirov Museum.
1990 - 1999
Thirty Years of Dance Theatre of Harlem
During the 90's, Dance Theatre of Harlem continued its mission to be an organization that is artistic, educational and socially aware. As in the beginning, DTH continued to challenge widely held stereotypes, while bridging the gaps created by extreme cultural and economic disparity worldwide. DTH's historic tour to South Africa in 1992 known as the Dancing Through Barriers tour gave birth to the Dancing Through Barriers® program, wherein the company's reputation as a traveling university was formally institutionalized. Since that time, the DTB® program has become a cornerstone in Dance Theatre of Harlem's educational programming.
In 1999, Dance Theatre of Harlem celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a New York City season, and educational activities, including the company's world renowned Firebird, performed with live music for New York City Public School students. For some of the students, this event was their first time in a theater, especially with a live orchestra.
As an addition to the crowning achievement of the 30th anniversary and Arthur Mitchell’s 50th year in performing arts, Dance Theatre of Harlem and Mitchell were inducted into the National Museum of Dance and the Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney - Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York.
2000 – Present
Dance Theatre of Harlem: Using the Arts to Ignite the Mind
Eager to continue to shape the spirit of dance into the new millennium, in 2000, Dance Theatre of Harlem performed to sold-out houses in China, giving the country its first performances of Firebird and conducted extensive outreach and educational activities in Mandarin Chinese. That same year, the company returned to the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, which marked DTH’s first performance on its stage in 25 years.
At home or abroad, DTH is met with sold-out performances and accolades. After successfully returning to the UK in 2002 and 2004, DTH celebrated its 35th Anniversary with an extensive U.S. tour, followed by performances in Greece prior to the opening of the 2004 summer Olympics.
In late 2004, the professional company went on hiatus; in keeping with the DTH philosophy of “using the arts to ignite the mind” the DTH Ensemble, the performing arm of the school, continues to thrill audiences with lecture-demonstrations at schools, colleges, universities and dance festivals. Most recently, the Ensemble was invited to perform for the President and First Lady of the United States at the White House and is the only performing arts group invited to dance in the elegant rotunda at the New York State Supreme Court for the annual African American History Month celebration.
says New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.