Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem

Experience poetry in motion when the legendary Dance Theatre of Harlem headlines this year’s MLK Celebration at NJPAC.

NJPAC’s annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, with the Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries as guest speaker, pays tribute to the life and legacy of one of the 20th century’s most inspiring leaders. This year features a performance by Dance Theatre of Harlem, the legendary ballet company founded in 1969, shortly after the death of Dr. King, as an artistic means to turn despair into hope following his assassination.

The company was formed by dance master Arthur Mitchell (the first African-American man to become a principal dancer with a major U.S. ballet company, New York City Ballet) and the late Karel Shook. Mitchell began by starting a dance school and later a company that would bring new opportunity to the lives of young people in the Harlem neighborhood where he grew up.

Dance Theatre of Harlem consists of 18 racially diverse dancers, known worldwide for bringing a contemporary flair to classical and neo-classical ballet repertoire. Now 44 years old, the company remains committed to artistic excellence and to reaching new audiences with a powerful message of self-reliance, artistic relevance and individual responsibility.

Dr. Soaries, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, is a former New Jersey Secretary of State. In 2012, he was named to Ebony magazine's annual "Power 100" list.

Sponsored by PSEG

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Join us for a FREE event the evening before this performance
Black Ballerinas: Breaking the Boundaries of Classical Ballet
Thursday, January 16, 7-8:30pm


In 2007, The New York Times asked, “Where are all the Black Swans?” An urgent dialogue sparked by that question has caused leading dance institutions nationwide to examine the rarity of African-American women among their ranks. A conversation about raising the profile of the black ballerina, and the economic opportunities for diversifying and expanding audiences, will be held on Jan. 16, the evening prior to a performance by Dance Theatre of Harlem at NJPAC’s annual tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Moderated by dance journalist Charmaine Warren, this free discussion about the color barrier in classical ballet will feature Virginia Johnson, the Artistic Director and a founding principal dancer of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Also participating in the event will be Michelle Gadsden-Williams, Managing Director and Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Credit Suisse AG; dancer and choreographer Francesca Harper, founder and Artistic Director of The Francesca Harper Project, and Dance Theatre of Harlem dancer Gabrielle Salvatto. Refreshments will be available for purchase.

Click here to reserve your ticket.


The following program is subject to change:

Agon (choreography by George Balanchine, music by Igor Stravinsky): one of the defining ballets of neo-classicism.

past-carry-forward (choreography by Tanya Wideman-Davis and Thaddeus Davis, music by Willie “The Lion” Smith and Slippage): a ballet that honors the persistence of the Harlem Renaissance.

Gloria (choreography by Robert Garland, music by Francis Poulenc): This tribute to Harlem’s spiritual heritage was called “affectingly beautiful” by The New Yorker.

“Makes you want to race back for more next week …” —, powered by The Republican

“Dance Theatre of Harlem is back on its feet with a vengeance.” — The Times Union, Albany