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Diversity reflected on the stage

Photo courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Madison, WI – The Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) presents a “ballet company of African-American and other racially diverse artists who perform the most demanding repertory at the highest level of quality.”

In May, the company performed for the first time at Overture Center for the Arts. Overture hosted a masterclass, school performance, and public performance for their community in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem has an incredible legacy of training and showcasing dancers of color since 1969. Co-founder Arthur Miller was the first African American to perform with the New York City Ballet, and he founded DTH as a classical ballet school for the children of Harlem, the predominantly black community where he was raised. Now, nearly 40 years later, DTH continues to train young dancers while also touring a professional company across the country—including Madison this spring.

The company. Photo courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Tim Sauers of Overture Center for the Arts noted, “With Dance Theatre of Harlem’s performances and other community engagement activities, Overture presented diverse artists and a type of artistic expression not frequently available to these audiences.”

Overture offered free and reduced-price tickets to a number of local schools, dance organizations, and youth organizations. Attendees had the opportunity to participate in post-show question and answer sessions, as well as a panel discussion led by Dance Theatre of Harlem members, a young dancer with Brown Girls Do Ballet, and mothers of local dance students of color. The panelists had a variety of perspectives and backgrounds, and they reflected on the experience of being a dancer of color locally, regionally, and nationally.

During the performances, young audience members took note of the diversity they were seeing on stage. “I love having the opportunity to show my black students positive role models,” said a teacher from O’Keefe Middle School. “They loved the show! Thanks so much for making tickets available for free and putting us in the box seats. They felt very special.”

Sauers observed, “Overture learned how vital it is to engage in conversations around presenting artists of color and what it means for artists of color to participate in classical ballet.”

“Dance Theatre of Harlem’s artists were willing to have courageous conversations about race and dance in public forums, which is encouraging for Overture’s efforts to be an inclusive, equitable center for the arts.”
—Tim Sauers, Overture Center for the Arts.

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