Flashback To New York City’s Dance Theatre Of Harlem

December 8, 2020

In 1969 dancers Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Mitchell and Shook started the theatre, located at 466 West 152nd Street, in response to the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

About Dancers Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook

Fourteen years before he co-founded the theatre, Arthur Mitchell joined the New York City Ballet, an event that made him the first African American male principal dancer in a major ballet company. August 1999, following years of exemplary dance, Arthur Mitchell, born March 27, 1934 in New York City, was inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame.

Throughout his career, the master dancer was honored with numerous awards including the National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime contribution to the performing arts, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Heinz Award. In April 2009, 40 years after he co-founded the school, Mitchell stepped down as the theatre’s artistic director. He was succeeded by Virginia Johnson, a founding company member.

The author of Elements of Classical Ballet Technique, Karel Shook was born in Renton, Washington. Prior to co-founding the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the dance master taught at the Katherine Dunham School of Dance. Shook passed away on July 25, 1985 at the age of 64 at his home in Englewood, New Jersey.

Dance Theatre of Harlem Goals

With the intent to elevate the self-esteem of children and adults, the theatre incorporated dance into educational programs in effort to strengthen and encourage its students’ confidence, discipline and creative expression. Following more than a year of work and study, the theatre’s dance company presented its first public performance at Manhattan’s Guggenheim Museum and it was a great hit then.

Both Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook were dedicated to the theatre which has a school and a professional dance company. The school teaches a variety of dance forms including classical ballet, movement, cultural and modern styles and jazz.

“Dancing Through Barriers” is a residency program offered by the theatre. Residency programs run for 15 to 30 weeks. The programs partner with schools to teach students the art of classical ballet. Residencies are available in New York City, Detroit, Michigan, Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC and Miami, Florida.

More Dance Theatre of Harlem Arts Programs for Students and Adults

Designed for children as young as Pre-K all the way up to high school seniors and mature adults, the theatre’s programs cover videotaped performances, lectures and open floor discussions that engage instructors and students and athletic and family workshops.

A master’s class is available for experienced dancers who are looking to strengthen their craft. The classes are combined with in-depth lectures or video assemblies. Classes are customized for beginners with minor dance experience as well as proficient dancers who require advanced training.

Through the years the theatre has both thrived and struggled amid the immense popularity of internet and online slot machines. Despite financial difficulties, particularly during 2004, the theatre has always maintained a professional and honorable decorum.

The theatre’s professional dance company has performed in countries and international locations such as Russia, South Africa and China. In 2006 former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush honored Arthur Mitchell and the Dance Theatre of Harlem with an event at the White House. Since its inception the theatre and its co-founder, Arthur Mitchell, have received over 300 official citations for excellence.

Meanwhile, the dance lovers in Harlem, who would like to enhance their dance skills without spending money can check out the below dance classes in the New York City that offers the service without any fee. Before we proceed, it is important to know that dance classes are quite expensive, but there are ways to get free dance classes in New York City. Some dance studios offer free dance classes once a month, while others offer free dance classes for work-study students.

There is also one dance studio in New York City that offers free classes in the form of a scholarship, to students that are trying to improve their dance skills for their musical theatre career. These locations in New York City include Peridance, The West Side Dance Project and the Sandra Cameron Dance Center. Below are the dance classes briefed and residents of Harlem can benefit from these:

Peridance in New York City

Peridance offers a large variety of dance, including hip hop, jazz, tap, ballet and even yoga. They’re known for being very modern, and classes can be rather expensive. However, they offer work-study positions where individuals can get one free class for each hour and a half of work. Applications can be picked up at their studio.

Peridance, 132 Fourth Avenue, (212) 505-0886

The West Side Dance Project in New York City

The West Side Dance Project is a small dance studio that offers a variety of dance classes. They offer classes in ballet, tap and jazz. A few times a year they hold auditions for their scholarship program. Those that win these scholarships are not always dancers, due to the fact they offer the scholarships to anyone who is trying to pursue a career in musical theater and are trying to improve their dance skills. The scholarship winners are required a three hour shift at the front desk once a week, and they also have to take a minimum of five hours of dance classes each week. Many young dancers have learned professional dancing skills here and some are established in the industry performing at theaters, reality shows and music videos.

The West Side Dance Project, 260 West 36th Street, Third Floor, (212) 563-6781

The Sandra Cameron Dance Center in New York City

The Sandra Cameron Dance Center is a popular dance studio that offers a variety of dance classes. They are known for offering salsa, ballroom, tango, swing and more. Each month, on the last Friday, they offer a guest night where they offer introductory dance classes in swing or salsa. They even offer free wine and cheese for guests that attend. This is a great attraction for the guests there.

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