Celebrating The Legacy Of Dance In Harlem is…Fabulous!

August 16, 2016

Sounds and Motion_Grace Williams1A newly expanded art exhibition by Community Works to salute pioneers in dance in Harlem will open formally at MIST Harlem, 46 West 116th St., between Lenox and 5th Avenues, with a special public reception for community leaders, artists and  interested residents. The exhibit is open now through November. The reception will be on Monday, Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m.

harlem is . . . Dance is an interdisciplinary display of artworks that show the power of dance and movement in Harlem. Launched in 2004, the exhibition uses images, including those by documentary photographer Ruth Morgan, to tell the story of three legendary dance pioneers in Harlem — Marie Brooks, Ruth Williams and Dele Husbands, and the prose and poetry of students who interviewed them about their contributions to community.

The expanded exhibition features work by 14 emerging and established artists and contributors who honor the traditions of swing, tap, jazz, classical, modern and African dance. Through painting, photography, digital art, collage, quilting, printmaking, archival images and commissioned new work, the exhibition allows us to reflect on the power of dance and to honor its innumerable past and present dancers and companies, including Katherine Dunham, Lavinia Williams, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Dianne McIntyre, Gregory Hines, Bill T. Jones, and Loretta Abbott, to name just a few.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a powerful poetic tribute to dance by Abdel Salaam, founder of Forces of Nature Dance Theater called “Harlem is a Dance Divine.”

Historian and archivist John Reddick, who created a wall of archival posters as part of the exhibit to trace dance in Harlem from the 1920s to today, explains: “Harlem dancers and dance innovators have long been a part of America’s theater performance and dance training.” As in music, theater and art, the exhibition is another effort towards underscoring the heroes, the history and legacies of the black community and the development of Harlem’s status as a cultural capital for Black America.


 Three main honorees include

Marie Brooks, whose Pan-Caribbean Dance Theater are known throughout the world. Born in Guadeloupe, she grew up in Trinidad and later became a student and disciple of Katherine Dunham. For nearly forty years, she has taken students around the world to dance and to study African and Caribbean traditions.

Ruth Williams was a Harlem institution for more than 50 years. She established the Ruth Williams Dance Studio in 1946, where she has taught tap, jazz, ballet, interpretive and African dancing to generations of children.

And Dele Husbands has directed and managed numerous dance and theater companies and has conducted master classes and workshops around the country in West African and African-America dance, history and culture. She is Chief Operating Officer of the Harlem-based Forced of Nature Dance Theatre Company, which she co-founded in 1981.

Artists include Andrea Arroyo, Tania Belan-Gaubert, Sancra Bell, Raqmona Candy, Elan Cadiz-Ferguson, Randy Dottin, Lance Johnson, Dindga Mccannon, Byron Mccray, Ruth Morgan, Tomo Mori, Ademola Olugebefola, John Reddick and Grace Williams.

The exhibition was co-curated Barbara Horowitz of Communtiy Works and Elan Cadiz-Ferguson, and is specifically dedicated to the memory of Loretta Abbott, dancer, actor, singer and choreographer. Community Works partnered with MIST Harlem, the Harlem Arts Festival and the Harlem Arts Alliance.

The exhibition is part of Community Works’ on-going mission since 1990 to use the arts to press for understanding and to bridge differences among neighborhoods, as well as its efforts to detail the history of Harlem. It is part of a year-long effort, harlem is . . . Downtown/Uptown, tracing the influence of black New Yorkers since the city’s earliest days.

Planned public programs in association with the exhibition include:

  • A tribute to Loretta Abbott. Community Works and the Clark Center NYC togeether with the dance and entertainment community celebrate the amzintg life of Loretta Abbott, and her long career in concert dance, Broadway, film and TV that inspired so many. Monday, Sept. 26, 6:30 p,m. Free with RSVP.
  • Harlem is . . . Arts and Culture. An interactive dialogue with artists in the harlem is . . . Dance exhibit moderated by historian and archivist John Reddick reflecting on how and why dance and the history and culture of Harlem are infused and reflected in their work.October, 2016.

The reception is free and open to the public, but does require an RSVP to info@communityworksnyc.org. For information about guided tours for youth and community please call Community Works at 212-459-1854., or clicking on this address: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/harlem-is-dance-special-artist-reception-tickets-26933154791

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