-- Dance Theatre Founding Member and Artistic Director Virginia Johnson to be Honored --
Queens, NY, January 14, 2019—The acclaimed Dance Theatre of Harlem returns to Queens College to headline the school’s fifth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration on Sunday, January 20, at 4 pm, in Colden Auditorium of the Kupferberg Center for the Arts. Dance Theatre of Harlem founding member and artistic director Virginia Johnson will be the honoree and keynote speaker. A performance highlight will be Return, created by Dance Theatre of Harlem’s resident choreographer Robert Garland, set to the music of Aretha Franklin and James Brown. Tickets are $35 and are available online and in person from the Kuperberg box office.
“Virginia Johnson’s dedication to continuing Dance Theatre of Harlem co-founder Arthur Mitchell’s vision to provide opportunities to artists of color that did not exist prior to the creation of Dance Theatre of Harlem exemplifies the spirit of Dr. King’s mission. By selecting her as our honoree, we offer our students and the community the chance to reflect on the scope of this country’s historical inequities, extending into the arts, progress made thus far and the work that remains to be done,” said Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez.
Virginia Johnson is being recognized for her commitment to artistry, inclusion, and mentorship throughout her distinguished career as a prima ballerina and for providing dancers of color with groundbreaking performance opportunities in collaboration with the late Arthur Mitchell, founder of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Her career with the company began in 1969 following her graduation from the Academy of the Washington School of Ballet. During Johnson’s 28 years with Dance Theatre of Harlem, she performed most of the repertoire in the principal role. After retiring from the stage she founded Pointe magazine, for which she also served as editor-in-chief, before returning to the company as artistic director in 2010. Under Johnson’s leadership, the organization developed a new cast and repertoire, embarked on national and international tours, and secured committed financial supporters.
“Dance Theatre of Harlem is honored to return to the Kuperberg Center for the annual celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, in recognition of the impact Dr. King had on Dance Theatre of Harlem’s co-founder Arthur Mitchell, the program reveals the richness that becomes possible when access is provided where none had existed before. The ballets to be presented range from Darrell Grand Moultries’ jazz-influenced Harlem on My Mind, the very classical Corsaire Pas de Deux, Chaconne, a masterful solo by the revered Mexican choreographer, José Limón and ends with fan favorite, Robert Garland’s Return, set to the music of the late, great Aretha Franklin and James Brown,” says Johnson.
Now in its 50th season, Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded by Arthur Mitchell. Inspired by the assassination of Dr. King, Mitchell sought to offer children, particularly in the Harlem community in which he was born, the opportunity to learn about dance and the allied arts. Today, Dance Theatre of Harlem provides opportunities for creative expression for artists of diverse backgrounds and maintains its legacy of artistic excellence. Its mission is to present a ballet company of African American and racially diverse artists of the highest caliber who perform a demanding repertory, maintain a world-class school that trains young people in classical ballet and the allied arts, and provide arts education, community outreach programs, and positive role models for all.
Kupferberg Center for the Arts has made complementary tickets available to several youth and community service organizations, including the Queens Community House afterschool program and the Pomonok Center, to enable members of the community to participate in this year’s presentation.
Queens College has a longstanding history of involvement in the struggle for equality and social justice. In 1964, Queens College student Andrew Goodman was slain, along with fellow civil rights workers James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, during a voter registration project in Mississippi. The following spring, as the inaugural speaker in the college’s John F. Kennedy Memorial Lecture Series, Dr. King emphasized the power of peaceful resistance. In 2015, at its 91st commencement ceremony—and fifty years after Dr. King’s address—the college awarded a posthumous honorary doctoral degree to Goodman.
About Virginia Johnson
A native of Washington, D.C., Ms. Johnson began her training with Therrell Smith. As a student at the Academy of the Washington School of Ballet, she studied with Mary Day and following graduation, went on to be a University Scholar in the School of the Arts at New York University. Johnson’s honors include a Young Achiever Award from the National Council of Women, Outstanding Young Woman of America and the Dance Magazine Award, a Pen and Brush Achievement Award, the Washington Performing Arts Society’s 2008-2009 Pola Nirenska Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 2009 Martha Hill Fund Mid-Career Award. She is universally recognized as one of the great ballerinas of her generation and is perhaps best known for her performances in Giselle, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Fall River Legend.
About Dance Theatre of Harlem
For 50 years, Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) has demonstrated the power of art to transform lives by providing access to ballet for all. Founded in 1969 by the legendary Arthur Mitchell and his former teacher, the late Karel Shook, DTH has grown into a globally-acclaimed dance institution that occupies a distinguished place in New York City’s cultural landscape and the forefront of American artistic achievement. Located on a block officially named “Dance Theatre of Harlem Way” in testament to its enduring legacy, DTH is comprised of a professional touring company, a school, and a broad range of arts education and community programs.
About Queens College
Queens College graduates the most teachers, counselors, and principals serving in New York City public schools. The college contributes to the local talent pool as a powerful economic engine and a leader in tech education, with more computer science majors than any college in New York City. Students from across the country and around the world are attracted to study at the Aaron Copland School of Music. Its renowned faculty and alumni include nationally recognized composers, conductors and performers who have received over 100 Grammy Awards and nominations.
Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. With its graduate and undergraduate degrees, honors programs, and research and internship opportunities, the college helps its nearly 20,000 students realize their potential in countless ways, assisted by an accessible, award-winning faculty. Located on a beautiful, 80-acre campus in Flushing, the college is cited each year in the Princeton Review as one of the nation’s 100 “Best Value” colleges, as well as being ranked a U.S. News and World Report Best College and Forbes Magazine Best Value College thanks to its outstanding academics, generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs. Visit our homepage to learn more.