The 16-artist Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), led by Artistic Director Virginia Johnson, will perform at the Alberta Bair Theater in Billings Oct. 6 for the first time in its astonishing 48-year history.
The tour also included a concert Sept. 29 at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and Oct. 3 at the WYO Theater in Sheridan. The performances were preceded by a two-week residency at UW in Laramie, where DTH teaching artists are on campus throughout much of the fall semester.
The undertaking originated with Marsha Fay Knight, professor of Ballet, Composition and Historical Dance at the University of Wyoming, who has been exploring ways to bring Dance Theatre of Harlem to perform in Laramie for nearly a decade. She persuaded her academic colleagues and the university administration to find the support to commission a new ballet from Dance Theatre of Harlem, as well as to invite them to Laramie as the 2017-2018 Eminent Artists-in-Residence, which culminated in last week’s performance.
The University of Wyoming commissioned Dance Theatre of Harlem to mount a new one-act ballet production choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie. The commission entails providing the resources – services like costume design and construction and financial support. Also, it includes Dance Theatre of Harlem interaction with University of Wyoming students as artists in residence.
In addition to giving the premiere performance of the new, unnamed work in Laramie, the artists are participating in master classes and workshops with University of Wyoming students and youth from throughout Albany County.
“Dance Theatre is a company with deep roots in the classical tradition,” says Knight. “Yet the evolution of DTH demonstrates how to bring ballet to our time, with movement language that is current and relevant … Most importantly, I believe that this residency will be the most memorable semester of our dancers’ time at the University of Wyoming. Observation, class, rehearsal, choreography and conversation with DTH artists … what could be better?”
Touring in the Rockies
For Dance Theatre of Harlem, a performing arts organization that specializes in touring, an engagement in a region usually leverages additional performances in nearby venues. According to Edward Schoelwer, touring representative for DTH, “The distances between theaters large enough to accommodate Dance Theatre of Harlem in those mountain states are daunting. Plus, the financing is difficult – for the venues and for DTH as well. But, we’ve all pulled together. I hope that the next tour won’t take 48 years to materialize.”
“We’re honored to present the Montana debut of Dance Theatre of Harlem because this quality of performance isn’t something our population is exposed to on a regular basis,” said Jan Dietrich, executive director of Alberta Bair Theater. “Beyond the positive impact on our local dance community and students through the workshops and student matinee performance, our area residents have the opportunity to see world class artistry right in our own backyard. What a treat!”
Dance Theatre of Harlem’s repertoire
The repertoire for Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Fall Rocky Mountain States Tour will consist of the new unnamed ballet by Darrell Grand Moultrie and “Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven,” choreographed by Ulysses Dove to music by Arvo Pärt.
Performances will close with “Return,” an international favorite, choreographed by Robert Garland, with music by Aretha Franklin, James Brown and others.
About Dance Theatre of Harlem
Dance Theatre of Harlem is a leading dance institution of unparalleled global acclaim, encompassing a performing company, a leading arts education center and Dancing Through Barriers®, a national and international education and community outreach program. Each component of Dance Theatre of Harlem carries a solid commitment towards enriching the lives of young people and adults around the world through the arts.
Founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, Dance Theatre of Harlem was considered “one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings” (The New York Times, 1971). Shortly after the assassination of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mitchell was inspired to start a school that would offer children – especially those in Harlem, the community in which he was born – the opportunity to learn about dance and the allied arts.
Now nearing its fifth decade, DTH has grown into a multi-cultural dance institution with an extraordinary legacy of providing opportunities for creative expression and artistic excellence that continues to set standards in the performing arts.
About the Billings concert
The Billings performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6; a truncated student performance at 12:30 that same day is perfect for those who don’t like to drive at night or just prefer a performance that is under an hour in length.
For details, call 406-256-6052 (box office hours are Monday through Saturday, noon-5 p.m.) and or visit www.albertabairtheater.org.