Seattle Times: Dance Theatre of Harlem, formed when ballet companies weren’t hiring dancers of color, celebrates 50 years with a Seattle tour stop
By Moria MacDonald
19 April 2019
“The first company was made up of people who had all been said no to,” said Virginia Johnson, a founding member and current artistic director of Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH). The company and its school, created by legendary New York City Ballet (NYCB) dancer Arthur Mitchell, arose at the height of the civil-rights movement in America, as a place where dancers of all colors could train, perform and excel in the world of classical ballet.
Dance Theatre of Harlem, which visits Seattle April 27-28 as part of its 50thanniversary tour, was born in a Harlem church basement. Mitchell, who became the first black principal dancer at NYCB in 1955, began teaching classes in 1968, wanting to make a difference in his community. The classically trained Johnson went on leave from New York University to join Mitchell’s fledgling company of 24 dancers — which soon left that basement and moved to a nearby garage.
“From the beginning it was a great success,” Johnson remembered. “People were excited and interested in it, or outraged and impatient to see it fail.”
Read the full article in The Seattle Times.
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