The founding of the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook occurred in the aftermath of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1968 assassination. There was the body of a civil rights leader shot down, and rising from that tragedy would be the bodies of young and motivated African-American dancers ready to lead the charge of challenging racism head-on in the world of dance. The exhibition Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts, on view at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, Maryland presents this groundbreaking dance company’s story.
“This is a culture interested in bodily expression and when Arthur Mitchell began there were foolish stereotypes that blacks couldn’t do classical dancing with our bodies. It was about shattering that barrier,” said the museum’s executive director, A. Skipp Sanders. “That type of perseverance is happening now too as we look at what’s going on in today’s movements with our younger generation. Every chance to point that out is a chance to tell truth to power.”
By Peter “Souleo” Wright | April 23, 2015