The Return of the Black Ballerina, A Knight Arts Challenge Initiative
The South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (SMDCAC) presents Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) for two seasons in a performance and residency program entitled “The Return of the Black Ballerina” beginning this spring, thanks to a Knight Arts Challenge grant awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
In 1955 Arthur Mitchell, an African-American ballet dancer was selected by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein to join the New York City Ballet (NYCB). This historic occurrence in pre-civil rights America set the stage for many firsts by Mitchell, who changed the face and future of dance forever. Through roles choreographed by Balanchine specifically for Mitchell, such as the pas de deux in Agon and the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, he honed his craft to become a principal dancer with NYCB for 15 years. In 1969, shortly after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem as a school and later the first Black classical ballet company and the first major ballet company to prioritize Black dancers. Drawing on his expertise and his prominence as the first African American to be a permanent member of a major U.S. ballet company, Mitchell’s ground-breaking idea was to transform the lives of young people in Harlem by providing training in classical ballet. In a few short years, his response to tragedy became a leading dance institution of unparalleled global acclaim.
Dance Theatre of Harlem’s has had many consequential milestones throughout its history including in 1988 with a five-week tour of the USSR, playing sold-out performances in Moscow, Tbilisi, and Leningrad, where the company received a standing ovation at the famed Kirov Theatre. In 1992, the company toured to South Africa in the "Dancing Through Barriers" tour that gave birth to the outreach program of the same name that still continues to operate. South African Suite, a collaboration with the Soweto String Quartet, was created after the company's visit to South Africa and became a staple in the repertoire of the company for years to come. In the 1990’s and 2000’s the company performed in South Florida regularly, attracting dance fans from all over our region to see its dynamic and consequential work. In 2006 President George W. Bush honored Dance Theatre of Harlem at the White House for an evening of performances given by the DTH Ensemble and former company members.
Due to financial constraints DTH was on hiatus for an eight year period. In 2011, Virginia Johnson, a founding dancer and former prima ballerina of the company, was named Artistic Director with Arthur Mitchell becoming Artistic Director Emeritus.
South Florida Schedule
Performances for this spring are on Saturday, March 10 at 8pm and Sunday March 11 at 3pm at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center. The evening of the Saturday, March 10 performance, from 6:30pm to 7:30pm, there will be a pre-show discussion about the challenges and triumphs of the Black Ballerina led by award-winning journalist Nadege Green and Virginia Johnson, Artistic Director of DTH.
There will also be a FREE “Dancing In The Streets” Community Party with DTH dancers on Friday, March 9 beginning at 6pm at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center and will include a special commissioned work by Hattie Mae Williams-The Tattooed Ballerinas, kids activities, as well as an opportunity for the community to dance with DTH company members and enjoy food vendors, bars, giveaways and more.
A community master class with DTH, open to dancers of all levels, will take place on Saturday, March 10 at 10:30am at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (registration open 1-2 weeks before). Visit SMDCAC.org for more information.
Tickets for the DTH performances are $25-$65 and can be purchased at SMDCAC.org or by calling 786-573-5300. The Center is located at 10950 SW 211 Street, Cutler Bay.
In addition to the performances and other public events listed above, the DTH residency in Miami will include outreach programs to Miami Dade College; African Heritage Cultural Arts Center; Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, four master classes with area Miami-Dade County schools; and two school “field-trip” shows, one for elementary school students and one for middle through high school.
DTH Program at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
Brahms Variation | Choreography: Robert Garland
This Bitter Earth | Music: Dinah Washington / Max Richter | Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven | Music: Arvo Pärt (Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, 1977) | Choreography: Ulysses Dove
Harlem on my Mind I Music: The Count Basie Orchestra, Chris Botti, Wynton Marsalis, Jesse Stone, Andy Razat, Fats Waller, Harry Brooks, Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, Rogers & Hart, Wynton Marsalis | Choreography: Darrell Grand Moultrie
The Return of the Black Ballerina is a Knight Arts Challenge funded initiative. This performance is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Culture Shock Miami, the $5 ticket program for students ages 13-22 is also a sponsor.
The South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center is managed by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, with funding support from the Office of the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners. The Center is dedicated to presenting and supporting arts and culture and providing access to the arts to the entire Miami-Dade County community. More information about the Center and its programs can be found at www.smdcac.org.
It is the policy of Miami-Dade County to comply with all of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The facility is accessible and assistive listening devices are available in the Main Stage Auditorium and the Black Box Theater space. To request materials in accessible format, and/or any accommodation to attend an event at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, please contact Stephanie Aponte, 786-573-5314, firstname.lastname@example.org, at least five days in advance to initiate your request. TTY users may also call 711 (Florida Relay Service).