Tue 2/11 @ 8pm
Dance Theatre of Harlem performs in Akron this coming Tuesday, the second week of Black History Month, so it’s a perfect opportunity for some historical background on the highest profile African-American ballet company.
Dance Theater of Harlem is back from the dead after shutting down performances in 2004. Back before they folded, DTH was well-thought-of artistically even if they were in financial trouble. It seems that Arthur Mitchell, who founded the company in 1969, was the right person to start the company and maybe not a bad artistic director, but he was not up to the challenges of financial management and fundraising that hit DTH in the 21st century.
Nobody much argued that African-Americans couldn’t dance classical ballet, but nobody much wanted to hire them either. That was the situation in 1955 when Arthur Mitchell became a company member at NYCB and it remains – pretty much — the situation today. When DTH folded in 2004 ONLY ONE of their dancers found work in a major ballet company. Today, very few African-Americans perform in major ballet companies.
Even a generic preview of DTH rep for 2/11 tells some of the story. Agon (1957) is the ground breaking Balanchine / Stravinsky masterpiece in which Mitchell famously partnered lily white Diana Adams. Fifty-seven years after its premiere, Agon remains astonishingly fresh, challenging but rewarding for performers and audiences alike.
Lark Ascending is choreography by Alvin Ailey, the coming of age story of a young girl. DTH does it en pointe, which sounds like something we’d like to see.
Also on the program, Far But Close, a contemporary narrative work DTH commissioned from prolific Canadian choreographer John Alleyne. Read more here.
8pm Tue 2/11/2014 at Akron Civic Theatre. Tickets $15 to $55 online http://akroncivic.com or by phone (330) 253-2488.
From Cool Cleveland contributors Elsa Johnson and Victor Lucas. Elsa and Vic are both longtime Clevelanders. Elsa is a landscape designer. She studied ballet as an avocation for 2 decades. Vic has been a dancer and dance teacher for most of his working life, performing in a number of dance companies in NYC and Cleveland. They write about dance as a way to learn more and keep in touch with the dance community. E-mail them at vicnelsaATearthlink.net.