A collaboration this month between two North Carolina arts institutions has resulted in a visual and performing arts celebration with one of America’s most beloved dance companies.
The exhibit, Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts, at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture, is timed to correspond with Dance Theatre of Harlem’s first-ever Charlotte engagement, at Blumenthal Performing Arts’ Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts.
Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook founded Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1969, shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The exhibit includes photographs and stories about the founders, the school’s formation in a church basement, its progression to a professional company and an overview of its repertoire. Overall, viewers can see more than 250 objects from Dance Theatre of Harlem’s archives, including 25 costumes with set pieces, 55 frames of about 160 photographs, 18 tour posters, four banners and four documentary video excerpts, across sections that walk visitors through a historical timeline of the company.
The show is a perfect fit for the Gantt Center season because it aligns with its recent 40-year anniversary. “It made it easy for us to decide to celebrate two historic institutions at the same time,” says David Taylor, president and CEO. “We are really looking forward to our youth coming and seeing this iconic company perform, and then seeing the exhibit to learn how it got to where it is today. Seeing Arthur Mitchell’s vision and the work of so many come to fruition, and then survive for 40-plus years, is extraordinary.”
DTH performs at the Knight Theater, January 22–24, and the exhibit runs from January 22 to June 26. One of the company’s performances will be dedicated solely to underserved youth. DT
For more: ganttcenter.org
Hannah Maria Hayes is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher.
Photo by Martha Swope, courtesy of the Gantt Center