Dance Theatre of Harlem: Diversity in dance

By Kendall Buzzelli


Chyrstyn Fentroy and Francis Lawrence in Pas de Dix Photo by Renata Pavam.jpg


As a country, we still struggle with providing equality for all. Dance Theatre of Harlem, returning to Wharton Center on May 2, recognized this inequitable access decades ago, and sought to begin a dialogue after the tragedy of MLK’s assassination. Founders Arthur Mitchell, the first African American principal dancer at New York City Ballet, and Mitchell’s teacher, Karel Shook, wanted to provide a space to foster artistic opportunities for Harlem’s African American youth, thus establishing Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH).


Before establishing DTH, Arthur Mitchell was already paving the way toward diversifying dance. His legacy has impacted the world of ballet so significantly that he’s been dubbed “the grandfather of diversity.”



Arthur Mitchell broke barriers by dancing a pas de deux with prima ballerina Diana Adams – one of George Balanchine’s groundbreaking masterpieces and a work created for Mr. Mitchell and Ms. Adams – with the New York City Ballet.


Moving into their fourth decade as a company, Dance Theatre of Harlem emulates MLK’s resilience.  DTH has continued to have an influence worldwide, performing to rapt audiences in seven countries in just the last two years. The company has performed for everyone from U.S. Presidents to the late Nelson Mandela in post-apartheid South Africa. They forged a path in the dance world, creating a foundation for what ballet can and should look like in the 21st century.


Today, Dance Theatre of Harlem carries on the legacy with which it was started. Their newest campaign, titled “The Movement,” celebrates where they’ve been, what they’ve done, and where they’re going.


See Dance Theatre of Harlem at Wharton Center on May 2. Tickets are only $19 for students and are available on our website. Don’t forget to follow Wharton Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for behind-the-scenes looks at all things Wharton Center.

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Posted in Dance, Wharton Center News

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