The Hopkins Center to Partner with Dance Theatre of Harlem

Three-year collaboration will explore the arts as an engine of social change.

A collaboration between Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) and the Hopkins Center for the Arts kicked off in late June, with the first of three summer residencies. The organizations will partner to create a new ballet work, explore how the arts can promote social change, and expand educational opportunities in dance, theater, African-American studies, and related fields.

"Last year, when we started exploring a collaboration between our institutions, the aim was a mutually supportive partnership that offered opportunities for interdisciplinary research and for our students to observe Dance Theatre of Harlem's creative process," said Mary Lou Aleskie, the Howard L. Gilman '44 Director of the Hopkins Center for the Arts, announcing the three-year collaboration. "This does just that, while opening the door for us all to learn from each other's histories."

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Hazel Scott, piano virtuoso, and Hollywood trailblazer.
Hazel Scott, piano virtuoso, and Hollywood trailblazer. (Photo courtesy of Ashlee Robinson)

The groundbreaking ballet company, founded in 1969, has been a model of inclusivity since its inception. Its work at Dartmouth will contribute to conversations on race, activism, and equity in the arts, with this summer's residency dedicated to the artistic development of The Hazel Scott Project. The company will work with choreographer Tiffany Rea-Fisher on the ballet, a newly commissioned work initiated by Washington Performing Arts, a D.C.-based entertainment agency. The ballet, set to premiere in 2022, will honor the legacy of Hazel Scott, a Black piano virtuoso and Hollywood trailblazer who risked her life and career through outspoken civil rights activism. "We are inspired to be a multi-year partner with DTH and to join in the artistic journey of The Hazel Scott Project," Aleskie says. "These long-term relationships that connect artistic disciplines with courses across the humanities and sciences make for deeper learning experiences and simultaneously shape our community."

The Hazel Scott Project has provided the inspiration for a summer theater course at Dartmouth co-taught by Monica White Ndounou, an associate professor of theater, and John Heginbotham, director of the Dartmouth Dance Ensemble, that examines the interplay between the arts and advocacy and challenges students to create dance as a tool for expanding historical understanding and social change.