Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem Awarded $4 Million Mellon Foundation Gift

Transformative Gift is Largest in Organization’s
50 Year History


(NEW YORK, NY – January 14, 2020) – Dance Theatre of Harlem announced today a $4 million gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the organization’s capacity building efforts, including improvements to salaries for artists and staff, investments in fundraising infrastructure and leadership, and innovative artistic and community-building initiatives. The grant includes a $1 million matching gift to be raised by the Dance Theatre of Harlem Board of Directors, led by Board Chairman Ackneil M. Muldrow, III, bringing the total support to $5 million. The timing of this gift comes at the culmination of DTH’s extraordinary 50th Anniversary Celebration, with its New York City Center Season and Vision Gala April 15-18, 2020.

The grant is the largest single gift made to Dance Theatre of Harlem in the organization’s 50 year history and represents a significant investment in the transformative and innovative work of the organization.

“Throughout its history, Dance Theatre of Harlem has expanded the notion of what ballet could be,” said Executive Director Anna Glass. “We are eternally grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for steadfastly believing that the expression we bring to the art form is unique and necessary. This gift is an investment in our future that will have impact for decades to come.”

“We recognize the groundbreaking work of Arthur Mitchell and legacy of this iconic American company,” said Andrew W. Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander. “Since its founding in 1969, Dance Theatre of Harlem has led the way for so many artists and companies and inspired countless young people. Looking ahead to the next era, the Foundation enthusiastically offers its support to Dance Theatre of Harlem’s visionary leaders as they guide the company to a bright and flourishing future.”

In addition to supporting organizational capacity building, the grant will also provide Dance Theatre of Harlem the opportunity to pilot new programs that expand upon existing initiatives to develop and commission works by choreographers of color with an emphasis on grooming ballet dancers of color into choreographers. As described by Artistic Director Virginia Johnson, “This extraordinary gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is not only a tribute to Dance Theatre of Harlem’s 50-year history of blazing through long-established barriers to dancers of color, it’s also an opportunity to redefine the art form in the 21st century by developing new voices, establishing a culture of artistic inquiry and producing meaningful art.”

This spring, Dance Theatre of Harlem returns to New York City Center for its annual homecoming season of four performances from April 15-18. The engagement kicks-off with the Vision Gala, setting a vision for DTH’s next 50 years, featuring the New York premieres of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Balamouk (Extended Version) with a live performance by Grammy-winning klezmer band The Klezmatics, and excerpts from Resident Choreographer Robert Garland’s new ballet, among others. Three programs of repertoire performances follow, featuring the aforementioned premieres by Garland and Lopez Ochoa alongside the NY Premieres of Claudia Schreier’s Passage, created in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the United States in 1619, and Pam Tanowitz’s sublime Gustave Le Gray No. 1 performed with dancers from New York City Ballet.

Dance Theatre of Harlem co-founders Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook carefully crafted a vision for classical ballet that would serve as a beacon for the artform worldwide. Fifty years later, Dance Theatre of Harlem remains grounded in its deep commitment to honor its legacy, as well as its principal values of access, opportunity, and excellence, buttressing a vision for a future where ballet belongs to everyone and fully embraces the contributions of diverse communities.

Virginia Johnson (Artistic Director) is a founding member of Dance Theatre of Harlem and 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, D.C., 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 and went on to be a University Scholar in the School of the Arts at New York University before joining Dance Theatre of Harlem. Ms. 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, and the Dance Magazine Award.

Dance Theatre of Harlem is a leading dance institution of unparalleled global acclaim, encompassing a world class company, a professional studio school, a leading arts education program – Dancing Through Barriers®, and community engagement activities. Each component of Dance Theatre of Harlem carries a solid commitment towards enriching the lives of young people and adults around the world through the arts. Founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, Dance Theatre of Harlem was considered “one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings” (The New York Times, 1971). Shortly after the assassination of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mitchell was inspired to start a school that would offer children — especially those in Harlem, the community in which he was born — the opportunity to learn about dance and the allied arts. Now in its fifth decade, Dance Theatre of Harlem has grown into a multi-cultural dance institution with an extraordinary legacy of providing opportunities for creative expression and artistic excellence that continues to set standards in the performing arts.

Dance Theatre of Harlem closes out its year-long 50th anniversary celebration with a program looking forward to its next 50 years. From April 15-18, the Company will perform four shows in New York City, opening with its annual Vision Gala, at New York City Center (131 West 55th Street). For more information about Dance Theatre of Harlem, please visit

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