Dance Theatre of Harlem to Make Orpheum Debut This Spring


The Orpheum Theatre Group has announced the limited engagement of Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) on Saturday, April 29 and Sunday, April 30 at the Orpheum Theatre.

Last September Virginia Johnson, Artistic Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem, made an exploratory trip to tailor programming and education activities for the company's upcoming spring residency.

"On my recent trip to Memphis I was struck by the vibrancy of the art scene there," said Johnson. "Memphis is well-known for its music scene, but dance also has a strong presence with the dynamic Ballet Memphis and Collage Dance Collective as well as impressive dance programming in the public school system. With that in mind, I wanted to bring a program to the Orpheum that only Dance Theatre of Harlem could present."

Dance Theatre of Harlem is known for its thrilling performances in New York City, across the country and abroad that successfully challenge preconceived notions. The touring company consists of 16 racially diverse dance artists who perform an eclectic, demanding repertoire. As elsewhere on tour, in addition to performances, company activities in Memphis carry a message of empowerment through the arts by engaging community through education activities for audiences and young people. The Orpheum performances will offer four compelling works, each with a distinct style and artistic expression: Vessels, Chaconne, Change, and Return.

Darrell Grand Moultrie's Vessels is a dynamic tour de force in four movements that are entitled Light, Belief, Love and Abundance. This contemporary ballet draws on the energy and artistry of a new generation of DTH artists and highlights the athleticism and sheer physical elegance of these unique dancers.

The great Mexican modern dance choreographer Jose Limón created the solo, Chaconne, for himself in 1942, and it has since been performed by both men and women (including Mikhail Baryshnikov) over the years. "As a classical company, DTH strives to both refresh and broaden the concept of classical dancing and José Limón's Chaconne is an example," continuEd Johnson. "This solo is a perfect example of the combination of form, restraint and technique that epitomizes the classical."

Change, choreographed by the incomparable Dianne McIntyre is a passionate celebration of the enduring strength and vision of black women throughout history in this country. Performed by three women, the ballet is set to traditional songs performed by the Spelman Glee Club and an original drum music score.

A rousing blend of the elegance of classical ballet and the gritty drive of soul music, Return is a quintessential DTH ballet. DTH resident choreographer Robert Garland pushes the boundaries of ballet technique and form, incorporating and blending vernacular movement from the African-American experience. From pas de bourée to the Cabbage Patch, balloné to the bump, the ballet fulfills DTH's idea of what it means to be "classically American."

"I didn't think DTH could be in Memphis without performing this ballet set to the music of Aretha Franklin and James Brown," said Johnson. "With its mix of the precision of classical pointe work with the funk of social dancing, Return is jubilant fun. Dance Theatre of Harlem means to use art to bring people together and I hope this eclectic program will provide something of interest to everyone."

Tickets are on sale now and available for purchase online at the official Orpheum Theatre website,, the Orpheum Box Office (901.525.3000), and Ticketmaster (901.743.ARTS).

Dance Theatre of Harlem is a leading dance institution of unparalleled global acclaim whose mission is:

• To present a ballet company of African-American and other racially diverse artists who perform the most demanding repertory at the highest level of quality

• To maintain a world-class school that trains young people in classical ballet and the allied arts

• To provide arts education, community outreach programs and positive role models for all

The mission of the Orpheum Theatre Group is to enhance the communities we serve by utilizing the performing arts to entertain, educate, and enlighten while preserving the historic Orpheum Theatre and the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education. For more information, visit

Photo Credit: Rachel Neville


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