Dance Theatre of Harlem

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Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) is an American professional ballet company and school based in Harlem, New York City. It was founded in 1969 under the co-directorship of Arthur Mitchell, who was the first African-American principal dancer at New York City Ballet, and Karel Shook, who had been the first teacher and ballet master of the Dutch National Ballet. Milton Rosenstock served as the company's music director from 1981-1992. The DTH is renowned both as "the first black classical ballet company",[1] and "the first major ballet company to prioritize black dancers". Homer Bryant, founder of Chicago's Multicultural Dance Center, joined DTH in 1972 and became one of its principal dancers.[2]


Founded in 1969, the Dance Theatre of Harlem made its official debut on January 8, 1971, at the New York Guggenheim Museum with three chamber ballets by Mitchell. During the same season the company's repertory was supplemented with several ballets by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. Its European debut was at the Spoleto Festival. In 1981 the Dance Theatre of Harlem became the first black company to appear at Covent Garden. In 1992, the company toured to South Africa[2] in the "Dancing Through Barriers" tour that gave birth to the outreach program of the same name that still continues to operate.

In 1999, the year of the company's 30th anniversary, 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.[3]

In February 2009 Dance Theatre of Harlem celebrated its 40th anniversary. In 2009, Virginia Johnson was named Artistic Director, with Arthur Mitchell becoming Artistic Director Emeritus.

Young dancers from the Dance Theatre of Harlem perform during a dinner held at the White House on February 6, 2006. President George W. Bush and Laura Bush are in attendance.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem archives, created and processed with assistance from the Dance Heritage Coalition[4] hold many important documents from the company's history. These include photographs of the visit of Nelson Mandela to the DTH, a handwritten score by Karel Shook, and designs by Salvatore Ferragamo.[5] In 2013, the DTH archives received a Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support the improvement of sustainable preservation measures for the DTH archival collection.[6]

Outreach work[edit]

The Dance Theatre of Harlem School offers training to more than 1,000 young people annually with its community program called Dancing Through Barriers, open to any child who wants to study dance. The company's Dancing Through Barriers Ensemble does outreach throughout the US.[7] It accepts pre-school children up to senior citizens. The school offers specializations in children's movement, European ballet, choreography, and musicology.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem now has a Pre-Professional Residecy program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., for dancers aged 8 to 18. If accepted, the students meet every Saturday, October through April, and work with DTH resident choreographer Robert Garland. The program includes four levels from beginner to advanced for both ladies and gentlemen of the DC metro area. In April, the program culminates with a performance on the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall stage as a part of the Millenum Stage series.

Having ceased performing in 2004 due to budgetary constraints,[8] the Dance Theatre of Harlem resumed performances in the 2012-2013 season.[9] As of December 2013 the company has 18 dancers and is under the leadership of Virginia Johnson.[10]


  1. ^ Encyclopedia Columbia Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ a b Oxford Dictionary of Dance.
  3. ^ Dance Theater of Harlem, Legacy.
  4. ^ Bell, Kat (22 July 2011). "Things Have Been Busy". Preserving the Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives (blog). Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  5. ^ Smith, Imogen; Tyrus, Judy; Bell, Kat (23 September 2013). "Adapting Traditional Processes to Nontraditional Collections: Putting the Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives Back Together". Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "Dance Theatre of Harlem Planning Grant for DTH Archival Preservation Plan". National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Where Are All the Black Swans?, New York Times, May 6, 2007 (accessed May 6, 2007).
  8. ^ Deficit Threatens Dance Troupe In Harlem (accessed May 13, 2012).
  9. ^ Dance Theatre of Harlem Company (accessed May 13, 2012)
  10. ^ Kourlas, Gia. "A Phoenix Is Rising on Point". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Koegler, Horst, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982, 0-19-311325-2

External links[edit]