Home ArtsDance Dance Theater of Harlem Names a New Artistic Director

Dance Theater of Harlem Names a New Artistic Director

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The Dance Theater of Harlem announced Thursday that longtime artistic director Virginia Johnson will resurrect the organization’s defunct professional company after years of hiatus and will retire from the role next year. Her mentor and director of the school, Robert Garland, was named her successor.

It was a big baton pass for the company, and its co-founder Arthur Mitchell appointed Johnson as his successor artistic director in 2009, giving her the task of reviving the company.

“My job was to revive the company. That’s what I did, but I’m not an artistic director,” said Johnson, 72. “For this company to become a full-fledged Harlem dance theater fit for the future, we need someone with an artistic vision.”

Quoting New York City’s first black mayor, David Dinkins, Garland, 61, describes the company’s vision, describing New York City as “a stunning mosaic of races and religious beliefs, nationalities and sexual orientations. ” he called.

“Everything has its own identity, and when they combine, it creates something more beautiful,” said Garland.

With Garland, Dance Theater of Harlem is in the hands of someone deeply rooted in the organization. He was mentored by Mitchell early on and became the company’s principal dancer, then its first resident choreographer. In that role, Garland performed a ballet set to “New Bach,” a tribute to Balanchine with touches of African-American indigenous dances, and a selection of socially and politically oriented songs by Stevie Wonder. He created famous works such as “Higher Ground”.

“He has an extensive knowledge of classical art, contemporary art, and black culture,” Johnson said of Garland. They express the need and expectation that they themselves will be evaluated.”

Johnson was a founding member of the Dance Theater of Harlem, which Mitchell formed with Karel Shook after the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, and taught children in the community he was in to play classical music. An adult who provided an entrance to the ballet.

After 28 years as a member of the company, including as a principal dancer, Johnson left the organization to found Pointe magazine, where he served as editor-in-chief for 10 years.

She said Johnson was cautious when Mitchell asked her to take his place in an organization that was shutting down due to mounting debt. I knew that it would not be easy to rebuild the ballet company I was working on, so I took the job. In 2012, when the company resumed performances after an eight-year hiatus, her number of dancers had dropped from 44 to her 18.

In 2018, Johnson stock projecta program dedicated to promoting racial equality in ballet companies.

Johnson originally planned to retire a few years ago, but then the pandemic hit and the performing arts faced major challenges.

But now Dance Theater of Harlem is on a more stable footing. When Garland takes over as artistic director on July 1 next year, he will spend far more time overseeing the company than Johnson did when he took over. Last year, the company received the biggest gift in its history. That’s his $10 million donation from philanthropist Mackenzie Scott.

Garland, who will continue to choreograph for Dance Theater of Harlem and other companies, will also re-establish ties with the Brazilian dance community, where Mitchell had considered starting a dance company and dance school before settling in Harlem. said included in his ambitions. Garland also said he hopes to expand the ranks of the company a little bit (when he takes over as artistic director, a former Dance Theater of Harlem he’ll be the director of the organization’s school with principal Tai Jimenez). , Johnson will become an honorary artistic director.)

A mentee to Mitchell, New York City Ballet’s first black principal dancer, Garland is also a follower of City Ballet’s founder and choreographer, George Balanchine, and incorporates that tradition into his work. I’m blowing

“We never let go of our Balanchine roots,” said Garland. “It’s non-negotiable for me in terms of our artistic heritage and cultural background.”

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