Virgin Islanders will have a chance to see some of the most promising young ballet dancers in the country when the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble performs at the Reichhold Center for the Arts this Saturday.
The Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook. Mitchell was the first African-American dancer at the New York City Ballet School.
In the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, Mitchell felt that dance and art could heal some of anger in his community. He was inspired to start a ballet school in Harlem, where he grew up. His first class consisted of 30 kids selected from the neighborhood.
Since then the school has established itself as one of the nation’s prestigious dance academies, training hundreds of dancers who have performed around the world.
Their show in St. Thomas will mark the beginning of the Caribbean tour. Their previous performances on this tour have been scattered around the northeast.
Dancer DaVone Doane said he isn’t sure how Caribbean audience will react to their performance, but he hopes it will be positive. He said there is something for everyone in the show, even for people who haven’t been exposed to ballet before.
“We do a mix of repertoire,” he said. “We go from the really classical rep to the extremely contemporary. People who haven’t gotten a chance to see classical ballet before, they’ll see that, but they’ll also see some newer works that have influences from hip hop and jazz.”
School-age children will have a chance to learn more about the world of modern ballet at a lecture and demonstration Friday morning from 10:30 to 11:30 at the Reichhold Center.
Members of the ensemble will demonstrate the basic elements of ballet movement and talk to the children about the discipline and athleticism needed to become a professional dancer.
Doane, who started his training at 9 years old, said that ballet offers many rewards even to those with no intention of performing professionally.
“It taught me not to give up at the first sign of difficulty,” he said. “It made me focus on my body and learning how to use my body to do things that I thought were practically impossible.”
The ensemble’s performance will mark the end of the Reichhold Center’s season. Tickets may be purchased at Urban Threadz, V.I. Bridal and Tuxedo, Home Again, Essentric Shoe Boutique, the University of the Virgin Islands Bookstore and online at the Reichhold Center Box Office.
For more information, visit www.reichholdcenter.com or call 693-1559.