Dance Theatre Of Harlem Brings Milestone Program To New Orleans

Dance Theatre Of Harlem Brings Milestone Program To New Orleans

The New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) presents the return of the classically American Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) Saturday, October 20, at 8 p.m. at the Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts. Continuing its half-century legacy of breaking boundaries and transforming lives through ballet, the company brings a beautiful program of new works and treasured classics that highlights its rich history and honors trailblazing founder Arthur Mitchell, who passed away on Sept. 19 at the age of 84.

This special evening includes masterworks by George Balanchine and Christopher Wheeldon, the jazzy and soulful Harlem on My Mind with sensational music by Count Basie and Duke Ellington, and the triumphant restaging of the seminal 1974 ballet, Dougla, colorfully depicting the exotic pageantry of a Trinidadian wedding ceremony. The expanded Dougla cast of 25 dancers will also feature four guest artists from NOBA's Center for Dance, a nationally award-winning youth development program that provides over 5,000 tuition-free classes and activities annually. New Orleans is one of only four U.S. tour cities, including New York, Miami and Washington D.C., to produce this inspiring work.

Dance Theatre of Harlem tickets start at $35 and are available online at NOBAdance.com; by calling (504) 522-0996; in-person at NOBA's Box Office, 935 Gravier Street, Suite 800; or through Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com. Discounted tickets for groups of 10 or more, students and seniors are also available. Season ticket packages including Dance Theatre of Harlem offer subscribers up to 20 percent off single ticket prices.

Dance Theatre of Harlem is sponsored by Entergy, Pan American Life Insurance Master Artist Series and Hyatt Regency New Orleans. A pre-performance talk with Artistic Director Virginia Johnson will begin at 7:15 p.m. on Mezzanine Level M2 of the Mahalia Jackson Theater.

ABOUT THE PROGRAM:

Led by former DTH prima ballerina Virginia Johnson, the company brings four stunning works selected to spotlight its extraordinary legacy and celebrate a golden anniversary. The evening begins with the neoclassical "gem" (The New York Times) Valse-Fantaisie, originally created by George Balanchine in 1967 for New York City Ballet. Set to music by Mikhail Glinka, Valse-Fantaisie features one man and five women in a joyful ballet of musicality, brilliance and pure dancing. The ballet is a new addition to the DTH repertory and premiered as part of the company's 2018 New York season.

With exquisite partnering, This Bitter Earth is a sublime duet by prolific choreographer and the director of the award-winning Broadway hit An American in Paris, Christopher Wheeldon. This breathtaking and poetic dance for a man and woman explores the haunting, tenuous melodies of Dinah Washington's soulful rendition of "This Bitter Earth" as remixed by British composer Max Richter.

Acclaimed choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie's Harlem On My Mind is a lively company work that will have the audience dancing in the aisles. With music by Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Wynton Marsalis, Harlem On My Mind draws on a rich continuum of jazz to burst from the stage. For his third work for DTH, Moultrie chose to reflect on the persistent and evolving mystique that is the place called Harlem.

The evening's grand finale is the triumphant restaging of DTH's seminal ballet, Dougla, by Trinidad-born visual artist, actor, dancer and choreographer, Geoffrey Holder. Known for being the spokesman in the Uncola 7-Up commercials in the 1970s and 80s, playing the villain in 1973 James Bond thriller Live and Let Die, and winning two Tony awards in 1975 for directing and costume design for The Wiz, Holder created this DTH audience favorite in 1974. With his gorgeous costumes of sweeping skirts for both men and women and percussive score, written in partnership with Tania León, the striking ritual of a Trinidadian wedding ceremony comes alive. "African drummers fill the air with compelling Caribbean rhythms" in this "color-infused spectacle," raves New York Amsterdam News. Dougla was lovingly reconstructed for the company's 2018 New York season and set on a new generation of DTH dancers by Holder's wife, the legendary dancer Carmen de Lavallade, son Leo and iconic DTH artists, including Pan American Life Insurance Group Master Artist Donald Williams. Four NOBA Center for Dance pre-professional students were selected by Johnson to learn, rehearse and perform Dougla as part of DTH's expanded cast.

DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM IN THE COMMUNITY:

  • DTH will host a lecture/demonstration at Mahalia Jackson Theatre for K-12 students on Friday, October 19, at 10 a.m. Tickets are $5 for school groups, and advance reservations are required.
  • From October 15-20, DTH artists will conduct master classes and workshops for the NOBA Center for Dance, partner institutions, area schools and the New Orleans dance community.

ABOUT DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM:

For 50 years, Dance Theatre of Harlem has been dedicated to transforming lives through the power of its art and its vision of inclusion and access to all. Founded in 1969 by the legendary Arthur Mitchell and his former teacher, the late Karel Shook, DTH is a globally-acclaimed dance institution that has occupied a distinguished place in New York City's cultural landscape and at the forefront of American artistic achievement. Located on a block officially named "Dance Theatre of Harlem Way" in testament to its enduring legacy, DTH now comprises a professional touring company, a school and a broad range of community programs.

Under the leadership of Virginia Johnson, a former prima ballerina with the company who was appointed artistic director in 2010, the DTH mission has been revitalized to:

  • Present a company of African American and racially diverse artists who perform the most demanding repertory at the highest level of quality
  • Maintain a world-class school that trains young people in classical ballet and allied arts
  • Provide arts education, community outreach and positive role models for all

The company is a racially diverse, 16-member professional dance ensemble that tours across national and international stages. The DTH company has performed in 41 countries on six continents, in 44 states and in more than 250 cities across North America. Last year alone, the company performed for nearly 60,000 audience members across the U.S. and reached more than 6,000 during its home season at New York City Center.

Focused on a future that is characterized by expansion and engagement, the company brings together artists from various dance styles and disciplines, such as music and fashion, to create new works that influence and enhance the ballet art form. Committed to cultivating a community for dancers, choreographers and other artists, DTH's company also serves as a pipeline for talent and an ambassador for connection on local, national and global levels.

The DTH school provides classical ballet and dance training to children and youth from ages three to 18. Cultivating an expectation and spirit of excellence, the school invests in providing high-quality training while ensuring that students of diverse backgrounds feel inspired and supported. Within the walls of DTH, students can feel physically and emotionally safe and are encouraged to explore their greatest potential as artists.

Like the school and company, DTH's community programs address the unique experience of artists of color and provide a forum where experiences of race and culture can be studied, expressed, experienced and discussed. DTH's community offerings include its flagship Dancing Through Barriers arts-in-education program, master classes, a Sunday matinee concert series, open rehearsals and work-in-progress showings that provide insights into the creative process.

ABOUT ARTISTIC DIRECTOR Virginia Johnson:

A founding member of Dance Theatre of Harlem, Johnson was one of its principal ballerinas over a career that spanned nearly 30 years. After retiring in 1997, Johnson went on to found Pointe Magazine and was editor-in-chief for ten years. A native of Washington, D.C., Johnson began her training with Therrell Smith then with Mary Day at the Washington School of Ballet. A graduate of the Academy of the Washington School of Ballet, she was a University Scholar in the School of the Arts at New York University before joining Dance Theatre of Harlem. 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 and an Outstanding Young Woman of America from the National Council of Women, the Dance Magazine Award, a Pen and Brush Achievement Award, Washington Performing Arts Society's 2008-2009 Pola Nirenska Lifetime Achievement Award and 2009 Martha Hill Fund Mid-Career Award.

ABOUT Arthur Mitchell - FOUNDER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR EMERITUS (1934-2018):

Arthur Mitchell is known around the world as an accomplished artistic director, astute educator, talented choreographer and extraordinary dancer. Born in New York City in 1934, he began his dance training at New York City's High School of the Performing Arts, where he was the first male student to win the coveted Annual Dance Award. Mitchell continued his classical training when he received a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet. In 1955, he was the first African-American male to become a permanent member of a major ballet company when he joined the New York City Ballet. During his 15-year career with the New York City Ballet, Mitchell Rose quickly to the rank of principal dancer and electrified audiences with his performances in a broad spectrum of roles. Mitchell is best known for two roles choreographed especially for him by the late George Balanchine: the pas de deux from Agon and the lighthearted Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Performing in nightclubs, on Broadway, in film, and on television, Mitchell was also a popular guest artist in the U.S. and abroad. In 1966, Mitchell was asked to organize the American Negro Dance Company, which represented the United States at the first World Festival of Negro Arts in Senegal, Africa. In 1967, at the request of the US International Association, he founded the National Ballet Company of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. Upon learning of the death of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, Mitchell was inspired to provide children - especially those living in Harlem - with the opportunity to study dance. During the summer of 1968, he began teaching classes in a remodeled garage. In 1969, with financial assistance from Mrs. Alva B. Gimbel, the Ford Foundation and his own savings, Mitchell founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with his mentor and ballet instructor Karel Shook. As a professional dance company and a school of the allied arts, the continued expansion of Dance Theatre of Harlem into a multicultural institution has attracted thousands of professional dancers and students from around the world. Arthur Mitchell adds to the legacy every day as Dance Theatre of Harlem's founding artistic director.

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