On 50 Years of the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Screen shot of Dance Theatre of Harlem performance video featured in episode of CUNY TV’s “Black America.”

A monthslong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Dance Theatre of Harlem starts Aug. 4 at 4 p.m. with “50 Years of Dance Theatre of Harlem: Experiencing History on Pointe and in Color,” a panel discussion at Lincoln Center with former and current members. A performance follows at 7:30 p.m. in Damrosch Park.

In a story for Amsterdam News, Zita Allen, Dance Magazine’s first Black critic, speaks to DTH dancers past and present about the significance of the historic ballet company, founded by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, and the opportunities it provides for Black dancers.

Keith Saunders, who started out as an apprentice at DTH before becoming principal and then ballet master, has been with the company for 40 years. After its 2018-2019 season, he will relocate with his wife Kelly, a ballet master at DTH, to Fort Worth where he has accepted a teaching position at Texas Christian University.

He credited “Arthur Mitchell and the doors he opened through his career at George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet, and, of course, the founding of DTH.” He added, “Ballet dancers like Delores Brown, who was one of my teachers, did not have similar opportunities because while she was a beautiful dancer, in her generation, society and the arts and ballet, in particular, had not evolved enough. It is one of the great tragedies for Black dancers of their generation, that based on the color of their skin, they were not able to pursue their passion. But it’s a testament to those women that they found a way anyway. Those are the shoulders on which I stand.”

Saunders also describes how his “unique career trajectory would have been virtually impossible” without DTH. Hear more from him and other dancers who have gone through DTH in the full story at Amsterdam News.

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