At the Dance Theatre of Harlem's "Vision Gala" Tuesday night in New York City, special guest host Soledad O'Brien and the evening's honorary chairperson actress Lynn Whitfield helped fete the event and honor Harry Belafonte.
"He completely embodies our sense of purpose," Virginia Johnson, DTH’s artistic director, told HuffPost BlackVoices. "As an activist in the civil rights movement he used his talents to change people's lives, which is exactly what Dance Theatre of Harlem does."
The nearly 250 gala attendees were not only there to pay homage to Belafonte and take in a beautiful performance by the Dance Theatre Harlem Ensemble and students from the Dance Theatre of Harlem School -- they also got an opportunity to celebrate of the rebirth of DTH's professional company.
In 2004, the all-black ballet company, founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and the late Karel Shook, went on hiatus due to financial problems. It was able to restart the renowned dance school and the DTH Ensemble (the 16-member junior company), but the absence of the core professional troupe left a significant void.
Johnson has spent the past two years working to restore the international touring company, and said she is now only six months away from accomplishing the task.
“When I talk to people about the company coming back, everyone is excited because they have such strong memories of Dance Theater of Harlem on the stage,” Johnson said. "And that’s going to happen very soon.”
As a founding member and former principal dancer with DTH for 28 years, Johnson feels a deep level of pride serving as a key figure in resurrecting the company after eight years.
“It’s an awesome responsibility, but the thing that is truly wonderful to me is that Arthur Mitchell gave me the chance to realize my dream by creating the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and I’m now in the amazing position to make that happen for another generation of dancers."
The Dance Theatre of Harlem's future is certainly bright.
Tuesday night's gala at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel ballroom raised a whooping $390,000 for DTH’s Next Generation Fund and Community Engagement Fund -- providing scholarships and financial assistance for aspiring dancers and supporting arts education and community programs.
With auditions for the renewed professional company now complete, the selected dancers will begin rehearsing this August and begin touring in the fall of 2013.
Here's a look at DTH's glamorous "Vision Gala."
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