Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts (Pt. 1)

This majestic exhibition of dazzling costumes, set pieces, intimate photographs, original tour posters, and video excerpts celebrates an iconic company and its corps who defied prejudice, and gravity itself, in pursuit of their talent. In the process, the company made history and shattered barriers for future generations of aspiring performers.

Central to the exhibition is the story of founder Arthur Mitchell who–when invited to join the New York City Ballet in 1955–became the first African American male to be a permanent member of a major ballet company, dancing virtually all of the company’s repertoire.

In pre-civil rights America, it was a rare occurrence to see men or women of color in professional classical dance companies. Because classical ballet originated as a European art form, social stereotypes asserted that it was a dance style that could only be performed by those of European descent. Yet, it was Mitchell’s response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that would destroy this myth and change the dance world forever.

Together with Karel Shook, Mitchell founded Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1969, eager to ignite positive social change by offering classes in classical ballet. Dance Theatre of Harlem rose to become one of the most sought-after companies in the world and continues a legacy of providing opportunities for creative expression and artistic excellence.

Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts honors the art of dance and a man who dared to define and live is vision. It celebrates the courage, drive, and profound accomplishments of Mitchell, Shook and the numerous dancers, choreographers, composers, designers, staff and faculty who contributed to the success of the school and the ballet company. It is a celebration of the magic of the performing arts and an affirmation of the power of art to transform.

THE MULTI-EVENT COLLABORATION INCLUDE A FIVE MONTH LONG EXHIBITION ON THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD-RENOWNED DANCE COMPANY OPENING JANUARY 2016 AT THE GANTT CENTER, AS WELL AS FIVE DANCE PERFORMANCES IN KNIGHT THEATRE, JANUARY 22-24, 2016.

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