Photography by Quinn Wharton
When Dance Theatre of Harlem made its comeback last April at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the company and its admirers exhaled a collective sigh of relief. “Having that behind us gives us a level of confidence,” says DTH artistic director Virginia Johnson. The company broke even with the New York engagement, and went on to tour from Maryland to Izmir, Turkey. Johnson views their second season as “a time to solidify, to refine, to build the amplitude.”
To bolster the repertoire and nurture DTH’s 18 dancers, Johnson is adding three ballets: Ulysses Dove’s Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven, which, Johnson says, “will require the dancers to reach a higher technical level and also to get inside a work”; Thaddeus and Tanya Wideman-Davis’ past-carry-forward, a ballet about the persistence of the Harlem Renaissance; and Frederic Franklin’s version of Petipa’s Pas de Dix. “These are not works for a black audience or a white audience,” says Johnson. “They’re for an audience that needs to know who we are as Americans.”
As the company moves forward, there are still some hurdles. Fundraising remains tough in a fragile economy. There is also the challenge of developing dancers of color, especially keeping them engaged through adolescence when they start thinking about becoming professionals. Nonetheless, DTH has an impressive tour schedule ahead: 15 weeks have already been scheduled. And its second season at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan runs April 23–27, 2014.