Dance Theatre of Harlem makes Orpheum debut

TSD Newsroom | 3/16/2017, 10:52 a.m.
Upcoming spring residency tailored to the Bluff City.
Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Ingrid Silva, Dylan Santon and Choong Hoon Lee in “Return.” (Photo: Rachel Neville)

Virginia Johnson, artistic director of Dance Theatre of Harlem, made an exploratory trip to Memphis last September to tailor programming and education activities for the company’s upcoming spring residency.

“I was struck by the vibrancy of the art scene there,” Johnson said. “Memphis is well-known for its music scene, but dance also has a strong presence with the dynamic Ballet Memphis and Collage Dance Collective, as well as impressive dance programming in the public school system. With that in mind, I wanted to bring a program to the Orpheum that only Dance Theatre of Harlem could present.”

With that backdrop, The Orpheum Theatre Group has announce the limited engagement of Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) on April 29 and April 30 at the Orpheum Theatre.

DTH is known for thrilling performances in New York City, across the country and abroad that challenge preconceived notions. The touring company consists of 16 racially diverse dance artists who perform an eclectic, demanding repertoire. As elsewhere on tour, company activities in Memphis will carry a message of empowerment through the arts by engaging community through education activities for audiences and young people.

The Orpheum performances will feature four works:

  • Darrell Grand Moultrie’s “Vessels” – a contemporary ballet that draws on the energy and artistry of a new generation of DTH artists and highlights the athleticism and sheer physical elegance of the unique dancers.

  • Jose Limón’s “Chaconne” – “This solo is a perfect example of the combination of form, restraint and technique that epitomizes the classical,” Johnson said.

  • “Change” by Dianne McIntyre – A passionate celebration of the enduring strength and vision of black women throughout history in this country. Performed by three women, the ballet is set to traditional songs performed by the Spelman Glee Club and an original drum music score.

  • “Return” – DTH resident choreographer Robert Garland pushes the boundaries of ballet technique and form, incorporating and blending vernacular movement from the African-American experience. The ballet fulfills DTH’s idea of what it means to be “classically American.”

“I didn’t think DTH could be in Memphis without performing this ballet ‘Return’ set to the music of Aretha Franklin and James Brown,” said Johnson. “With its mix of the precision of classical pointe work with the funk of social dancing, ‘Return’ is jubilant fun.”

Dance Theatre of Harlem, Johnson said, “means to use art to bring people together and I hope this eclectic program will provide something of interest to everyone.”

AT A GLANCE

Title: Dance Theatre Of Harlem

Venue: Orpheum Theatre, 203 S. Main St.

Dates: Saturday, April 29, 8 p.m.; Sunday, April 30, 2 p.m.

Admission: $25-$69, $79 VIP.

Tickets: On sale at www.orpheum-memphis.com, the Orpheum Box Office (901-525-3000) and Ticketmaster (901-743-ARTS).