SMG announced that it is bringing a piece of New York history to Jacksonville, Florida. The private management firm has secured a traveling exhibition dedicated to telling the groundbreaking story of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts, will be on display at the Ritz Theatre and Museum for an extended stay that began on April 15.
In the aftermath of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, African-American dance pioneer Arthur Mitchell co-founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem School in 1969 to ignite positive social change and dispel the belief that ballet could not be performed by those of African descent. The Dance Theatre of Harlem company officially debuted in New York City at the Guggenheim Museum in 1971. It has since grown into a multicultural dance institution of unparalleled acclaim, with a legacy of providing opportunities for creative expression and artistic excellence that continues to set standards in the performing arts.
In the last 44 plus years, the professional touring company has performed in 41 states and 40 countries on six continents. The renowned ballet company, school’s history, powerful social and artistic impact is brought to life through the exhibit’s more than 165 rare costumes, set pieces, historical photographs, tour posters, video excerpts and design sketches. The exhibit also includes four dramatically-staged ballets that are iconic to the company: A Streetcar Named Desire, Creole Giselle, Dougla and Firebird.
“It is a true honor for the Ritz Theatre and Museum to host an exhibition that shares such a compelling story of empowerment and defiance of racial stereotypes,” said SMG Jacksonville General Manager Bill McConnell. “Northeast Florida is home to many prolific dancers who helped pave the way as members of this iconic troupe. The Ritz Theatre and Museum is proud to provide Jacksonville with the opportunity to learn more about these artistic trailblazers and this storied dance company.”
The exhibition is thoughtfully divided into sections that allow the viewer to walk through a history of Dance Theatre – from photographs and stories about co-founders Mitchell and Karel Shook, to the forming of the school and progression to a professional company, and a repertoire that includes contributions from a myriad of choreographers over the years, including George Balanchine.
Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts is organized by Dance Theatre of Harlem, California African-American Museum and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C. The exhibition will be on display at the Ritz Theatre and Museum through July 31.