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 Rev. 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 in its fourth 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.
Dance Theatre of Harlem has achieved unprecedented success, bringing innovative and bold new forms of artistic expression to audiences in New York City, across the country and around the world. Among the recent highlights of Dance Theatre of Harlem is its recent return to England after a 14-year hiatus in 2002, opening to critical acclaim in London and Manchester, where they won the Manchester Evening News Award in Dance.
In 2000, Dance Theatre of Harlem performed to sold-out houses in China, giving the country its first performances of Firebird, and conducted extensive outreach and educational activities in Mandarin Chinese. That same year, the Company returned to the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, which marked DTH’s first performances on that stage in 25 years.
The Dance Theatre of Harlem School continues to offer training to more than 1,000 young people annually through professional and pre-professional dance programs. The school also offers a community program open to any child who wants to study dance. Dancing Through Barriers, Dance Theatre of Harlem’s education program, brings arts education programs to young people in schools and community centers all over the world.
Dance Theatre of Harlem is located at 466 West 152nd Street in a newly-designated landmark district in Harlem. The building was designed by Hardy Holtzman Pfeiffer & Associates and received the New York City Department of General Services Award for Excellence. After a major gift from the Everett Foundation in October 1994, the building was officially re-opened and dedicated as The Everett Center for the Performing Arts. The historic site houses dance studios used by both the Company and the School. In 2003, Dance Theatre of Harlem continues to inspire and to “ignite” the minds of people throughout the world.
Some of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s award winning television credits include American and European broadcasts of Valerie Bettis’ A Streetcar Named Desire, and a special telecast of DTH’s Creole Giselle, hosted by Bill Cosby. An ABC documentary, ‘Peter Jennings Reporting: From the Heart of Harlem’ featured Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the company was DTH have won many awards. Their production of Agnes deMille’s Fall River Legend received a Cable Ace Award for Best Performing Arts Special. In 1997, the company’s performance of Billy Wilson’s Concerto in F during the Kennedy Center’s 25th Anniversary Special was nominated for a Prime Time Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cultural Programming – Performance. ‘Kennedy Center Tonight: Stravinsky’s Firebird,’choreographed by John Taras, was the recipient of the George Foster Peabody Award.
For information about the Company’s national and international tour schedule, New York City engagements and the Dance Theatre of Harlem School, visit www.dancetheatreofharlem.org
Arthur Mitchell is known around the world as an accomplished artistic director, astute educator, talented choreographer, and extraordinary dancer. Born in New York City on March 27, 1934, he began his dance training at New York City’s High School of the Performing Arts, where he was the first male student to win the coveted Annual Dance Award.
The Early Years . . . Mitchell continued his classical training when he received a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet. In 1955, he was the first African-American male to become a permanent member of a major ballet company when he joined the New York City Ballet.
During his fifteen-year career with the New York City Ballet, Mitchell rose quickly to the rank of Principal Dancer and electrified audiences with his performances in a broad spectrum of roles. Mitchell is best known for two roles choreographed especially for him by the late George Balanchine; the Pas de Deux from Agon and the lighthearted Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He also performed in nightclubs, on Broadway, in film and on television. Mitchell was also a popular guest artist in the United States and abroad.
DTH: Upon learning of the death of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, Mitchell was inspired to provide children-especially those living in Harlem-with the opportunity to study dance. During the summer of 1968, he began teaching classes in a remodeled garage. In 1969, with financial assistance from Mrs. Alva B. Gimbel and the Ford Foundation, Mitchell founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with his mentor and ballet instructor Karel Shook.
Awards: Mitchell is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Heinz Award in 2001 and the Governor’s Martin Luther King Award in 2000. He was inducted into the Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance in 2000. He received the Americans for the Arts Education Award in 1997, the John W. Gardner Leadership Award in 1996, the National Medal of Arts in 1995, and the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the School of American Ballet in 1994. In 1993, during Dance Theatre of Harlem’s 25th Anniversary, Arthur Mitchell was elevated to Living Landmark status by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, became one of the youngest Kennedy Center Honors recipients and was presented with the Handel Medallion, New York City’s most prestigious award for artistic contribution.
A partial list of his affiliations include the Council of the National Endowment for the Arts and an appointment to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships by President Bill Clinton. He is an Honorary Patron of the Market Theatre Foundation in South Africa, former council member on the New York State Council on the Arts.