By Roslyn Sulcas
16 June 2020
Dance Theater of Harlem emerged from tragedy and uprisings; the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in 1968, was the catalyst for Arthur Mitchell, the first African-American principal dancer at New York City Ballet, to found (with his teacher, Karel Shook) a ballet school and a company that would offer dancers of color the chance to show that mastering classical dance had nothing to do with race.
There couldn’t be a better moment to spend some time watching this company, which was recently awarded a $4 million gift from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will go, in part, to supporting new work by women and people of color.
Forced by the coronavirus to cancel its 50th anniversary season in April at New York City Center, the company is now offering a changing selection from its repertory online. On Saturday at 8 p.m. Eastern, Dance Theater of Harlem on Demand will offer Robert Garland’s 1999 “Return,” a homage to James Brown and Aretha Franklin that has become a signature piece for the company. Mr. Garland, the troupe’s resident choreographer, has described the work as “an attempt to fuse an urban physical sensibility and a neo-Classical one,” and it provides a terrific showcase for the dancers, who combine the rigor of ballet technique with the funk of vernacular forms. Starting Wednesday, there are also online talks with Mr. Garland and company members about “Return,” and a Juneteenth and Black Music Month Celebration Dance Party. (R.S.V.P. for this on the company website.)
Until Sunday at midnight, you can catch Darrell Grand Moultrie’s “Vessels,” a well-crafted and inventive neo-Classical ballet to music by Enzio Bosso. You can also watch a conversation between Mr. Moultrie and Virginia Johnson, the company’s artistic director, about the work, which also touches on his thoughts about the protests and foregrounding of the Black Lives Matter movement since the killing of George Floyd.
Read the full article online here.