Dance Theatre Breaks Down Barriers

Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded in 1969. At the time it was comprised of African American artists who were barred from U.S. ballet companies because of the color of their skin. Its mission over the past four decades, as stated on its website, has continued to be to “present a ballet company of African American and other racially diverse artists who perform the most demanding repertory at the highest level of quality.”

They have achieved this and more. In 1999 the company was inducted into the National Museum of Dance and the Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame. And this weekend the Dance Theatre of Harlem is coming to Martha’s Vineyard. Actually, the company has been here all week, in residency at the Vineyard Arts Project in Edgartown. On Monday, a group of Island dancers from the Rise dance school attended rehearsals to get a glimpse of what the future could hold for their own careers.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem does considerable outreach through its school, Dancing Through Barriers, which is open to any child who wants to study dance. Each year the school trains more than 1,000 young people throughout the country.

Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, the company stopped performing in 2004. This year marks the relaunch of the company, and Vineyard audiences get a chance to witness this rebirth. Performances are Friday, August 24, and Saturday, August 25, both shows beginning at 7 p.m.

For more information and tickets, visit