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Dance Theatre of Harlem’s “Passage” premiere thrilled audiences

“Passage,” a new ballet by the profound Dance Theatre of Harlem, premiered at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk on May 3. The ballet was presented by Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health and was commissioned by the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution and the Virginia Arts Festival. It ran May 3-5.

The female creative team who brought the performance to life included choreographer, Claudia Schreirer, and composer, Jessie Montgomery. Schreier has been praised for her choreography that blends “ballet’s traditional etherealism…[with] a more modern earthiness,” by the Columbia Daily Spectator, while Montgomery’s music has been called, “wildly colorful and exploding with life,” by the Washington Post.

Democracy, diversity and opportunity, the themes of the Commemoration, were reflected in the work. It was reminiscent of the hardships and perseverance that took place in Virginia for 400 years, beginning in 1619 . The ballet expressed, in abstract, the resilience and determination of the human spirit.

The premiere was a full house. Chrysler Hall was packed with people of all different backgrounds and ages who came to watch the fantastic performance. It was clear that the audience was moved by the performance because it received multiple standing ovations.  

Dance Theatre of Harlem is an American professional ballet company and school based in Harlem, New York. The multi-ethnic company tours nationally and internationally to celebrate African-American culture through dance and music. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the company that has been breaking racial and political boundaries since 1968.

World-renowned dancers, Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, founded Dance Theatre of Harlem during the height of the civil rights movement. It is said that Mitchell’s decision to start the dance company was in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. Since then, the company has grown to be known for its diversity, cultural significance and artistic achievements around the world.

The premiere at Chrysler Hall was the first of three performance locations commissioned by American Evolution and partners. The next performances will take place in our nation’s capital at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on May 29 and at the Virginia Tech Moss Center in Blacksburg on September 13.