The Dance Theatre of Harlem Dances Through the Streets of NYC: A Sight to Behold

It’s near­ly impos­si­ble to find an unblem­ished square of pave­ment in New York City.

Unless the con­crete was poured with­in the last day or two, count on each square to boast at least one dark pol­ka dot, an echo of casu­al­ly dis­card­ed gum.

Con­firm for your­self with a quick peek beneath the exu­ber­ant feet of the Dance The­atre of Harlem com­pa­ny mem­bers per­form­ing on the plaza of the Adam Clay­ton Pow­ell Jr. State Office Build­ing dur­ing the 46th annu­al Harlem Week fes­ti­val.

For obvi­ous rea­sons, this year’s fes­ti­val took place entire­ly online, but the Dance The­atre’s offer­ing is a far cry from the gloomy Zoom‑y affair that’s become 2020’s sad norm.

Eight com­pa­ny mem­bers, includ­ing co-pro­duc­ers Derek Brock­ing­ton and Alexan­dra Hutchin­son, hit the streets, to be filmed danc­ing through­out Harlem.

Those who gripe about the dis­com­fort of wear­ing a mask while exert­ing them­selves should shut their traps until they’ve per­formed bal­let on the plat­form of the 145th and St. Nicholas Sub­way Sta­tion, where the dancers’ pris­tine white shoes bring fur­ther buoy­an­cy to the pro­ceed­ings.

The City Col­lege of New York—in-state tuition $7,340—provides the Neo-Goth­ic stage for four bal­leri­nas to per­form en pointe.

The Hud­son Riv­er and the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge serve as back­drop as four young men soar along the prom­e­nade in Den­ny Far­rell River­bank State Park. Their casu­al out­fits are a reminder of how com­pa­ny founder Arthur Mitchell, the New York City Ballet’s first black prin­ci­pal dancer, delib­er­ate­ly relaxed the dress code to accom­mo­date young men who would have resist­ed tights.

The piece is an excerpt of New Bach, part of the com­pa­ny’s reper­toire by res­i­dent chore­o­g­ra­ph­er and for­mer prin­ci­pal dancer, Robert Gar­land, described in an ear­li­er New York Times review as “an author­i­ta­tive and high­ly imag­i­na­tive blend of clas­si­cal vocab­u­lary and funk, laid out in hand­some for­mal pat­terns in a well-plot­ted bal­let.”

The music is by J.S. Bach.

And in these frac­tious times, it’s worth not­ing that only one of the dancers is New York City born and bred. The oth­ers hail from Kansas, Texas, Chica­go, Louisiana, Delaware, Orange Coun­ty, and upstate.

The group seizes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to ampli­fy a much need­ed pub­lic health message—wear a mask!—but it’s also a beau­ti­ful trib­ute to the pow­er of the arts and the vibrant neigh­bor­hood where a world-class com­pa­ny was found­ed in a con­vert­ed garage at the height of the civ­il rights move­ment.

Con­tribute to Dance The­ater of Harlem’s COVID-19 Relief Fund here.

via @BalletArchive/@Ted­Gioia

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bal­le­ri­na Misty Copeland Recre­ates the Pos­es of Edgar Degas’ Bal­let Dancers

Watch the 1917 Bal­let “Parade”: Cre­at­ed by Erik Satie, Pablo Picas­so & Jean Cocteau, It Pro­voked a Riot and Inspired the Word “Sur­re­al­ism”

Watch the Ser­pen­tine Dance, Cre­at­ed by the Pio­neer­ing Dancer Loie Fuller, Per­formed in an 1897 Film by the Lumière Broth­ers

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.   Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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