Acclaimed ballet company making stop May 5 at Escher Auditorium, CSB

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November 29, 2017

Harlem Dance TheatreArthur Mitchell was shocked to hear that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.

On that fateful day, Mitchell was headed to Brazil, sent by the U.S. government to start the National Ballet of Brazil. But when he heard the news that King had been killed on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, he decided to pass on his trip to Brazil.

Instead, he decided to form a classical ballet school for the children of Harlem, the New York neighborhood where he was born and raised.

Founded in 1969 by Mitchell and Karel Shook, the New York Times called the Dance Theatre of Harlem “one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings” in 1971.

Nearly 50 years later, the acclaimed ballet company is a singular force in American ballet. The Dance Theatre of Harlem will make a visit to the Fine Arts Series at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, performing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5, at Escher Auditorium, Benedicta Arts Center, CSB.

“Presenting the Dance Theatre of Harlem is an exceptional opportunity for CSB, SJU and for audiences in this region,” said Tanya Gertz, executive director of Fine Arts Programming. “This iconic company performs at the highest level and has done so much to redefine our cultural perception of ballet.

“It is incredibly rare for us to add a performance to an already planned season but this opportunity was simply too amazing for us to pass up. CSB and SJU has presented some of the most acclaimed names in dance over the last five decades, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem certainly ranks near the top of an extraordinary list,” Gertz said.

The visit to CSB comes during a Midwestern swing for the company, which has stops scheduled April 30-May 2 in East Lansing, Michigan; May 6-9 in Madison, Wisconsin; and May 9-12 in Cincinnati.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem tours nationally and internationally, presenting a powerful vision for ballet in the 21st century.

The 16-member, multi-ethnic company performs a forward-thinking repertoire that includes treasured classics, neoclassical works by George Balanchine and resident choreographer Robert Garland, as well as innovative contemporary works that use the language of ballet to celebrate African-American culture.

Through performances, community engagement and arts education, the company carries forward Dance Theatre of Harlem’s message of empowerment through the arts for all. The mission of the group is:

  • To maintain a world-class school that trains young people in classical ballet and the allied arts
  • To provide arts education, community outreach programs and positive role models for all
  • To present a ballet company of African-American and other racially diverse artists who perform the most demanding repertory at the highest level of quality

Initially founded only as a school, Dance Theatre of Harlem also encompasses a leading arts education center and Dancing Through Barriers®, a national and international education and community outreach program. Each component of Dance Theatre of Harlem carries a solid commitment toward enriching the lives of young people and adults around the world through the arts.

Though officially incorporated in 1969, Dance Theatre of Harlem would make its official debut with a public performance on Jan. 8, 1971, at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, with three chamber ballets choreographed by Mitchell.

Tickets for the performance go on sale Wednesday, Dec. 6. Tickets are $26 for adults, $23 for seniors, $19 for CSB and SJU faculty and staff, $15 for students and youth with ID and $10 for CSB and SJU students.

For tickets, call the Benedicta Arts Center Box Office at 320-363-5777 or order online.

These activities are made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.