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Theatre of Harlem to Perform at Annenberg in
The newly relaunched Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) makes its return to the dance world and Philadelphia after an 8-year hiatus with an eclectic mix of new and familiar works that highlight the range and diversity of this legendary company. Among the world’s foremost interpreters of the Balanchine canon, the company has garnered critical acclaim for history-making productions and returns in full force under the artistic direction of founding member and longtime prima ballerina, Virginia Johnson.
This production wraps up Dance Celebration’s 30th anniversary season, presented by Dance Affiliates and the Annenberg Center. Performances take place at the Annenberg Center,
3680 Walnut Street, on May 16 to 19.
The Philadelphia engagement sees the return of Rock School-bred dancer Michaela DePrince, who most notably was featured in 2011’s critically lauded documentary First Position.
DePrince was born in Sierra Leone, orphaned by the civil war and adopted by an American family in New Jersey when she was four years old. She studied at the Rock School and went on as a scholarship recipient to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of the American Ballet Theatre. She joined Dance Theatre of Harlem upon her 2012 graduation from the school.
The program includes Agon, the 1957 collaboration between two monumental 20th-century artists, choreographer George Balanchine and composer Igor Stravinsky. The piece is universally regarded as a masterwork that redefined ballet in its time. In Agon (ancient Greek for contest), 12 dancers perform a series of solos, duets, trios and quartets based on 17th-century French court dances. DTH Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus Arthur Mitchell danced the central pas de deux in the piece at the ballet's premiere.
The company will also perform the Swan Lake Act III Pas de Deux. Originally produced in 1877, Swan Lake has become one of the most enduring of classical ballets. Dating from 1895, the Act III Pas de Deux (commonly referred to as the “Black Swan Pas de Deux”) is a universal favorite and a showcase for bravura technique. This rendition was staged for Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2012 by former ballerina and renowned teacher Anna-Marie Holmes, who learned the role in St. Petersburg from the great Kirov ballerina Natalia Dudinskaya.
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Set to a varied, industrial score by Amon Tobi, Donald Byrd’s first work for Dance Theatre of Harlem and a Philadelphia premiere, Contested Space (2011) is an exploration of contemporary couplings and relationships, examined through the lens of a 21st-century, post-neoclassical sensibility.
Philadanco alum and former DTH principal dancer Robert Garland contributes the Philadelphia premiere of Gloria (2012). With music by Francis Poulenc and costume design by Pamela Allen-Cummings, Gloria is an homage to Harlem’s rich cultural legacy—including music (jazz, hip-hop) and literature (the Harlem Renaissances’ Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes to name a few). Gloria stands as a tribute to the history and legacy that still abides in the community of Harlem.
Rounding out the program is the Philadelphia premiere of When Love (2012). From the mind of internationally-acclaimed choreographer Helen Pickett and set to a Phillip Glass and Einstein on the Beach score, When Love is a contemporary duet that depicts a quiet experience of falling in love.
Inspired by the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to bring new opportunity to the lives of the young people in the Harlem neighborhood in which he grew up, Arthur Mitchell, along with the late Karel Shook, founded Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1969. Mitchell, who had found success as a principal dancer with the renowned New York City Ballet, understood the power of training in a classical art form to bring discipline and focus to a challenged community. Dance Theatre of Harlem's unprecedented success, as a racially diverse company, school and source for arts education was built on creating innovative and bold new forms of artistic expression.
Through these varied artistic interactions, its ambassadors have helped to build character and have provided valuable life skills to countless people in New York City, across the country and around the world.
Dance Theatre of Harlem is a leading dance institution of unparalleled global acclaim that uses the art form of classical ballet to change people's lives. Through performances by its internationally acclaimed Company, training in its world-class school and participation in its multi-faceted arts education program, Dance Theatre of Harlem has made a difference in the world for 43 years.