Legendary Dance Theatre of Harlem Returns to Portland after 25 Years



When: Tuesday & Wednesday – April 21-22, 2015, 7:30 pm
Where: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, SW Broadway & Main, Portland
Tickets: Starting at $26, available at whitebird.org and Portland’5 Box Office
1111 SW Broadway (formerly PCPA) NO added fees.
1-800-380-3516 (added fees apply).Discounts available for groups/students and seniors.
Sponsor: Bonhams
Media Sponsor: The Oregonian
Info: www.whitebird.org

“Dance Theatre of Harlem has reclaimed its vital place as one of the major companies in America”
The Dance Enthusiast

White Bird is extremely proud to present the long-awaited return of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Last seen in Portland over 25 years ago, Dance Theatre of Harlem has been inspiring audiences around the world since it was founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook. Mitchell, the first African American male dancer to become a principal dancer with a major U.S. ballet company (New York City Ballet), established the company to bring new opportunities to the lives of young people in the Harlem neighborhood. Mitchell believed in the power of classical ballet training as an art form to bring discipline and focus to a challenged community. This legendary company, now led by former Dance Theatre of Harlem principal star, Virginia Johnson will bring to Portland a bold and innovative program featuring four works by outstanding choreographers, Robert Garland, Christopher Huggins, Ulysses Dove and Darrell Grand Moultrie.

Opening the program is New Bach choreographed by Robert Garland and set to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Violin Concerto in A Minor. Originally created for the company in 1999, this musically syncopated and physically demanding work reflects the dynamism of neo-classical ballet that was instilled into Dance Theatre of Harlem by Arthur Mitchell. It is both a tribute to George Balanchine and his neo-classical technique as well as to the company’s Harlem roots. The work is a perfect example of Dance Theatre’s fluid blend of styles performed with electricity and charisma. Choreographer Robert Garland was a DTH principal dancer and now serves as the company’s first Resident Choreographer.

Second on the program is a more intimate piece created by former Alvin Ailey dancer, Christopher Huggins-
In The Mirror of Her Mind (2011). A dance for one female and three male dancers, Huggins takes the audience into the mind of the woman as she reflects on the loves and losses of her lifetime as represented by the three men. He begins the piece with a woman seemingly lying asleep on the stage. Three men surround her and lift her into a suggested dream-like state, which escalates with her throwing herself at the men or being manipulated by them. Huggins’ choreography gives the dancers opportunity to display their impressive technical skills as well as their ability to convey relationships, formed effortlessly, as the woman travels down the path of realizing her true nature.

Following this work is the revival of Ulysses Dove’s Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven, Odes to Love and Loss. Originally choreographed for the Royal Swedish Ballet in 1993, former Alvin Ailey dancer and famed choreographer, Ulysses Dove, was inspired by a challenging period in his life after loosing 13 close friends and relatives. Dove states, “I want to tell an experience in movement, a story without words, and create a poetic monument over people I have loved.” This forceful and moving memorial is performed by six dancers showcasing articulate movements and weightless partnering. Mesmerizing in its force, with slow austere and dignified moves, this piece displays the strength and focus that Dance Theatre of Harlem’s dancers are famous for.

The final piece on the program is also the newest from 2014. Vessels, choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie, is the perfect representation of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s innovative past history, their current resilience and vigor, and most importantly what they envision as their future. Born and raised in New York City, Darrell Grand Moultrie remembers what it meant to him as a child to see Dance Theatre of Harlem perform –the dancers were the “vessels” of possibility, carrying with them decades of artistic tradition and cultural transference. They represented historical struggle as well as hope in leading young artists towards the future. Vessels is bright and bold in its creation and uplifting and inspiring in its performance. Moultrie seeks to pass on to audience the same experience of exuberant and deliberate movement he himself had when watching Dance Theatre of Harlem perform years earlier.

Arthur Mitchell (Co-Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus) was born in 1934 in New York and grew up in Harlem. He was accepted into New York City’s High School of Performing Arts where he was awarded with the coveted annual dance award and subsequently a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet. Upon graduation he was accepted as the first African American male dancer in the New York City Ballet and rose quickly to the role of Principal Dancer. After the shock of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Mitchell gathered his savings and with support of the Ford Foundation and Mrs. Alva B. Gimbel, he founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem with his ballet teacher and mentor, Karel Shook. With an illustrious career that has spanned over fifty years, Mr. Mitchell is the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, a National Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the New York Living Landmark Award, the Handel Medallion, the NAACP Image Award, and more than a dozen honorary degrees. His life mission is to better the lives of troubled young people through the art of dance.

Virginia Johnson was a founding member of Dance Theatre of Harlem, and performed as a Principal Dancer for nearly 30 years. After retiring in 1997, Ms. Johnson went on to found Pointe Magazine and was editor-in chief for 10 years. She began her training at the Washington School of Ballet and went on to be a University Scholar in the School of the Arts at New York University before joining Dance Theatre of Harlem. She is recognized as one of the great ballerinas of her generation She has received such honors as a Young Achiever Award from the National Council of Women, Outstanding Young Woman of America and the Dance Magazine Award, a Pen and Brush Achievement Award, the Washington Performing Arts Society’s 2008-2009 Pola Nirenska Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2009 Martha Hill Fund Mid-Career Award.

White Bird’s 2014-15 season is supported by the Regional Arts & Culture Council, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, The Collins Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Fred W. Fields Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation, Ronni Lacroute/ WillaKenzie Estate, Work for Art, Oregon Arts Commission, PGE Foundation, Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), The Autzen Foundation, Trust Management Services, The Jaffe Foundation, The Boeing Company and Multnomah County Cultural Coalition.

Legendary Dance Theatre of Harlem Returns to Portland after 25 Years