*December is a busy month for events, especially wonderful dance programs. The Dance Theatre of Harlem is presenting an upcoming matinee “Nutcracker” program on December 12th at 3:00 pm which will be performed by the dance theaters’ dancers in training.
There will also be featured Jazz prodigy Solomon Hicks and his Solomon Hicks Trio with special guest Phyllis Yvonne Stickney hosting. The performance will be held at the Everett Center for the Performing Arts, located at 466 West 152nd Street (between Amsterdam and St Nicholas Avenues) in Manhattan.
The Professional Company has been on hiatus since 2004 but dance connoisseurs can look forward to their return in 2013. However the dance training school has been in existence for the last 41 years and it will be they who perform in the matinee series. Every second Sunday of each month until April 2011 and during the third Sunday in May audiences can attend these performances. There will be a meet-the-artist reception afterwards.
“The matinens are a great way to bring people together on Sunday afternoons and expose them to an afternoon of music, dance and entertainment. We also bring in other artists like Solomon Hicks and Yvonne Stickney that will join us this upcoming Sunday, December 12th. There will be a 1:00 and 3:00 performance. The Dance Theatre will be giving their students a chance to perform before a live audience so we will be performing the “Nutcracker” during this particular matinee. Each Sunday is a mixture of genres and different guests,” explained artistic director Virginia Johnson.
“The dance school offers a diversity of dance which includes jazz, tap, modern and African dance. We would like to open these matinees to the entire city to come up to Harlem and see what we are doing,” explained Virginia.
On January 9, Eric Pierceson’s jazz combo will perform as will the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble, a group of budding ballet artists who have come up through the Dance Theatre’s school and are currently engaged in the Dance for America tour. These dancers are ages 17-24, who are at the peak of their form. They are waiting in the wings to become part of the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s professional company that will be revived in 2013. They are young, polished, exciting and very hungry to become professional ballet dancers.
Other matinees are scheduled for Feb. 13, March 13, April 10, and May 13.
“It’s said it takes 10 year to make a dancer and 10 years to make an artist. We have two programs: a Community school that meets on Saturdays. We are having auditions for both programs on December 11th. Admittance to the school is by audition. Anyone can audition but we are looking for students who are coordinated, committed and ready to move. School ages are from 3 to infinity. There are adult classes as well. We have a pre professional program for serious students committed to dance as a profession. Those classes are held Monday through Friday. There is no dance background required. We look for a sense of rhythm, focus and a body easily able to move. We teach many different styles of dancing even though we are a ballet school,” continued Ms. Johnson about the school requirements.
The Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded by Arthur Mitchell and Karl Shook in 1969. Arthur used his own savings, the financial assistance of Alva Gimbel and a grant from the Ford Foundation to start the Company. Mitchell was a principle dancer for the New York City Ballet for several years. He had been asked by the State Dept to create a ballet company in Brazil. The day he was ready to fly to Brazil was the Day Martin Luther King Jr was killed. It was then Mitchell decided to give what he knew to his own country. When Arthur Mitchell began the company, most ballet companies at that time claimed that black people could not do ballet. It was thought that black folks did not have the body or the temperament to do ballet. Mitchell proved them wrong.
The Sunday matinees will be going on each year from November to May as a continuing program as long as the Dance Theatre of Harlem is in existence.
“The Dance Theatre of Harlem will celebrate our birthday on February 11, 2011 which will make the Company 42 years old.” said Mitchell’s successor. “Arthur Mitchell selected me a year ago as his successor. It was something I took on because I understood the power of this organization. The fact that he selected me to follow in his footsteps is a tremendous responsibility and great boost of confidence. I cannot tell you the impact Arthur had on the arts world by creating the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Every one of us are celebrating his legacy through our work as an institution. Arthur Mitchell remains so very much in our hearts. The organization is moving forward now under my direction but Arthur Mitchell is at the center of our beginnings and we want to thank him for that” concluded Ms. Johnson.
For tickets to the Sunday Dance Theatre of Harlem matinees visit www.dancetheatreofharlemorg.