Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts

“one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings”

The New York Times, 1971

“As a young girl, I dreamed of being a ballet dancer, but was told I couldn’t do it because I was black. I feel very fortunate and thrilled that I can pass this art form along to the next generation of dancers.”

–  Virginia Johnson, Artistic Director, Dance Theatre of Harlem

Highlighting Dance Theatre of Harlem’s 40-plus year history, this magnificent exhibition celebrates the history and art of dance with 25 costumes and accessories, set pieces, documentary video excerpts, historical photographs and tour posters; and includes four dramatically-staged ballets that are iconic to the company: A Streetcar Named Desire, Creole Giselle, Dougla, and Firebird. Dispelling the belief that ballet could not be performed by those of African descent, Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1969. It has since grown into a multi-cultural dance institution.

The exhibition comes with customized costume forms and backdrops for the four staged ballets. Banners are long and can be mounted to a wall, or will require tall ceilings to hang in open air space.

In the last 45 years, the professional touring company of Dance Theatre of Harlem has performed in 44 states, 250 cities in North America, and in 40 countries on 6 continents.

Number of Works:
More than 250 objects including 25 costumes with set pieces, 55 frames of approximately 160 photographs, 18 tour posters, 4 banners and 4 historical video excerpts for four staged ballets
Organized by:
California African American Museum, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Judy Tyrus, Exhibition Curator for Dance Theatre of Harlem along with Barbara Cohen-Stratyner, Judy R. and Alfred A. Rosenberg Curator of Exhibitions at the Shelby Cullom Davis Museum, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Designed by:
Woodburn Schofield, Deputy Director of Operations and Special Programs with the California African American Museum; and Edward Garcia, Exhibit Supervisor, California African American Museum
Approximate size:
4,000 square feet
Moderate security
Participation Fee:
$15,000 plus cost of courier
IA&A makes all arrangements; exhibitors pay outgoing shipping costs within the contiguous U.S.
Booking Period:
12 weeks
January 2014 – July 2018
February – June 2018
Educational Materials:
Irving Arts Center, Irving, TX 
January 18, 2014 – March 16, 2014

National Museum of Dance, Saratoga Springs, NY
April 11, 2014 – November, 2014

Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, IN 
December 20, 2014 – March 15, 2015

Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, Baltimore, MD
April 1, 2015 – August 30, 2015

Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture, Charlotte, NC 
January 8, 2016 – June 26, 2016

Northwest African American Museum, Seattle, WA
September 17, 2016 – March 19, 2017

Ritz Theatre and Museum, Jacksonville, FL
April 15, 2017 – July 30, 2017

Bell County Museum, Belton, TX
November 11, 2017 – February 4, 2018

Dance Theatre of Harlem coming to Charlotte for the first time
Q City Metro, by Glenn Burkins, June 21, 2015

Reginald F. Lewis Museum exhibit demonstrates the influence of the Dance Theatre of Harlem
City Paper, by Maura Callahan, June 16, 2015

40 years for the Dance Theatre of Harlem
The Beacon, May 19, 2015

Dance Exhibition Celebrates ‘Firsts’ While Looking to the Future 
Huffington Post, by Peter ‘Souleo’ Wright, April 23, 2015

Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts 
WANE, by Kari Huston, January 30, 2015

Forty-Year Retrospective highlights the accomplishments of Dance Theatre of Harlem
Art Daily, December 25, 2014

40-year retrospective highlighting development, accomplishments of Dance Theatre of Harlem
Frost Illustrated, December 20, 2014

Harlem exhibition brings best of dance, art to city
The Journal Gazette, by Keiara Carr, December 19, 2014

Dance Theatre of Harlem traveling exhibition at the FWMoA
Around Fort Wayne, by Stephen Parker, December 19, 2014

Fort Wayne Museum of Art exhibit offers multisensory look at Dance Theatre of Harlem
The News-Sentinel, by Kevin Kilbane, December 18, 2014

Exhibit shows ballet’s cultural impact
Rambler, by Linda Smith, March 1, 2014

Forty-Year Retrospective showcases the seminal Dance Theatre of Harlem
Art Daily, January 25, 2014

Dance Theatre of Harlem’s tights of another color
Los Angeles Times Culture Monster, by Debra Levine, May 26, 2010

When black pride met classical ballet
Los Angeles Times, by Debra Levine, May 26, 2010

Dance company retrospective visits L.A. museum
Ventura County Star, by Jeff Favre, March 5, 2010