The Festival will present two performances of the Dance Theatre of Harlem at Chrysler Hall, May 17 and 18. At the centerpiece of this jubilant engagement is the company’s critically acclaimed staging of choreographer Robert Garland’s new work, Gloria, which will be performed for the first time with live music by the Virginia Symphony and the Virginia Chorale. Prior to each performance, there will be a panel discussion featuring area arts leaders and performers.
In 1955, when the great choreographer George Balanchine brought a black dancer—Arthur Mitchell—into Americas’s most prestigious company, American Ballet Theatre, it was the beginning of a new era. And in 1969, when Arthur Mitchell created the Dance Theatre of Harlem, ballet was changed forever. Nurtured by the optimism and idealism of the civil rights era, the company began with classes taught in a garage on 152nd Street in Harlem, where Arthur Mitchell grew up. Within just a few years, Dance Theatre of Harlem had won international acclaim, and over the next decades would perform across America and around the world, including historic performances in Russia—the first American ballet company ever to perform there, and in South Africa during the height of the movement to end apartheid.
“The Virginia Arts Festival has had a long relationship with Dance Theatre of Harlem,” said Festival Director Robert Cross. “We are delighted to be a part of this great company’s re-emergence, and look forward to sharing their many gifts with the communities of Norfolk and the region during our three-year residency.” With support from the City of Norfolk and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Festival’s Dance Theatre of Harlem residency program will feature public performances and community engagement including student matinees, master classes, panel discussions, and mentoring with local student dancers of all ages and abilities. Master classes will be held for students residing in the Young Terrace Housing Development, the largest public housing community in Norfolk, and for students of the Governor’s School for the Arts.