UNION — Kean Stage presents Dance Theatre of Harlem on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in Kean University’s Wilkins Theatre. A classic American institution, Dance Theatre of Harlem keeps their choreography and approach to ballet unique while remaining true to classical technique. In an innovative performance at Kean, audience members are taken behind the scenes as the troupe incorporates its trademark artistry with audience interaction.
In 1955 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.
Shortly after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1969, 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 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.
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.
Tickets to Dance Theatre of Harlem are $30 standard, $20 senior, student, child and can be purchased by calling Kean Stage Box Office at 1-908-737-7469, online at www.keanstage.com, or in person at Kean University’s Wilkins Theater Box Office, located at 1000 Morris Avenue, Union.
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