On Thursday night, Dance Theater of Harlem held their 2023 Vision Gala at New York City Center. The gala was not only a celebration of DTH’s longevity, but also of the last performances under the leadership of founding member and Outgoing Artistic Director, Virginia Johnson. 

The night also marked the tenth anniversary of the company’s relaunch under Johnson, after temporarily closing from 2004 to 2012 due to financial difficulties. The evening kicked off in the lobby of the City Center and the excitement and celebratory spirit were palpable as the who’s-who of the philanthropy, dance and entertainment worlds gathered together to take pictures, mix, mingle and enjoy a glass of wine. 

Honorary Gala Chair, Chelsea Clinton, Harvard Professor Sarah Lewis, “The View “Host Sunny Hostin                     Credit: Getty Images for Dance Theatre of Harlem

Johnson was honored in both dedicated performances and a heartfelt speech made by Honorary Gala Chair, Chelsea Clinton. In addition to honoring Johnson, who led the relaunch of DTH, the night also paid tribute to former Dance Theater of Harlem Board Chair Reginald Van Lee.

 Singer, Jennifer Holliday; DTH Choreographer, Robert Garland, and niece                                                           Credit: Getty Images for Dance Theatre of Harlem

The night’s masterful performances included brilliant pieces composed by African American icon, actor and ballet dancer, Geoffrey Holder, as well as DTH’s Resident Choreographer Robert Garland. Garland, who will soon, officially, become Artistic Director, crafted a touching piece entitled “High Above” which was performed by the younger students of The Dance Theater of Harlem to the angelic voice of Ms. India Arie. Both the dancers and dances were amazing, taking the audience on a journey filled with emotion, excitement, and awe, all through movement and music. “When Arthur Mitchell created Dance Theater of Harlem back in 1969, he created possibilities—all of us here, at Dance Theater of Harlem, are about making that continue to happen”, shared Johnson. 

 Dance Theater of Harlem in the Soviet Union (Arthur Mitchell, Virginia Johnson, center)                       Photo Credit:

The Dance Theater of Harlem was founded by Arthur Mitchell, who in 1955 made history by becoming the first black principal dancer at New York City Ballet. Mitchell, who was teaching ballet in Brazil until 1968, the year that Dr. King was assassinated, moved back to the States with a desire to help his people. He began by teaching ballet in Harlem, where he grew up. His legacy and purpose lives on—as Reginald Van Lee shared, “Dance Theater of Harlem was the first, and continues to be the only African-American-based ballet company in the world, and that is significant…that is proving to the world what we, as a race can do at the highest level.” DTH remains a revered institution that makes classical ballet, both in performance and training—accessible to all. 

See a performance and stay abreast of current and upcoming Dance Theater of Harlem tours and news here!

Follow on Instagram @dancetheaterofharlem

Main Photo Credit: Getty Images for Dance Theatre of Harlem