Choong Hoon Lee, Stephanie Rae Williams, Dustin James and Daphne Lee in Claudia Schreier's Passages. Brian Callan, Courtesy DTH.

Dance Theatre of Harlem Kicks Off Ballet Across America with a New Ballet By Claudia Schreier

The Kennedy Center's Ballet Across America festival (May 28–June 2) is celebrating women leadership and creativity this year, kicking off with three evenings of performances by Dance Theatre of Harlem. (Miami City Ballet joins them in a shared program on May 31, followed by their own performances.) Led by artistic director Virginia Johnson and executive director Anna Glass, DTH is a natural programming choice; so is bringing choreographer Claudia Schreier's new ballet for the company, Passage, which has an all-female creative team. The work premiered earlier this month in Norfolk, Virginia, and was originally commissioned by the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution and the Virginia Arts Festival, which honored the 400th anniversary of the first Africans to English North America. The overarching theme of the ballet celebrates the fortitude of the human spirit and the enduring will to prevail, which is apropos given that this is the 50th anniversary of a company that has seen much tribulation and triumph.


Passage shares the program with three older DTH ballets: Balanchine's Valse Fantaisie, Geoffrey Holder's Dougla and Dianne McIntyre's 2016 work Change. Schreier started working with the company last summer, shortly before the passing of founder Arthur Mitchell; hers was the first rehearsal at DTH after his loss. "Just walking through a hallowed hall… to see the studio that was the launching point for so many historical works brings a sense of gravitas to every thing," Schreier remarks. "It's an enormous responsibility to carry the knowledge that you, with the dancers, are carrying that legacy forward."

Derek Brockington and Da' Von Doane in Passages. Brian Callan, Courtesy DTH.

Johnson brought Schreier and Passage's composer, Jessie Montgomery, together. Montgomery's score is her first for a ballet, and a perfect match for Schreier. "Jessie has this beautiful, fluid, emotional style that she has brought to this piece," Schreier says of the young composer, who is also the founder of Catalyst Quartet.

Passage is a ballet swaddled in femininity, from Johnson and Glass to the all-female creative team, three of whom—Schreier, Montgomery and conductor Tania Leon—are of color. They are joined by costume designer Martha Chamberlain and lighting designer Nicole Pearce. Passage celebrates the fortitude and endurance required to create a legacy while giving us a glimpse of the future for DTH, for women and for ballet itself.

Latest Posts


Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
iStock

Ask Amy: My Parents Want Me to Get a Job and Cut Back on Dance Classes

I am thinking about pursuing a career in ballet. However, my parents have made it clear that at some point they want me to get a job, which they acknowledge would mean possibly dropping dance, or at least not taking as many classes. I agree that getting a job is important so that I'm able to make my own money, but dropping dance classes is the exact opposite of what will get me to where I want to be. Any suggestions? —Kaia

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Laurent Liotardo (post-production by Nik Pate), Courtesy ENB

Catch English National Ballet’s Rising Stars in the Emerging Dancer Competition Livestream

The coronavirus pandemic may have postponed English National Ballet's annual Emerging Dancer competition last spring, but the show must go on—digitally! You can still watch ENB's best and brightest talent during the competition's livestream, taking place on September 22 at 7:20 pm BST (that's 2:20 pm ET). Now in its 11th year, the competition for the Emerging Dancer Award will be broadcast live from the company's East London production studio for the first time. Tickets are available for $6.99 per device and will remain available to view on demand until September 29.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks