Inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, ballet enthusiasts and arts lovers gathered to celebrate the Dance Theatre of Harlem‘s 43rd anniversary. With cocktails, dinner and performances by the Dance Theatre Harlem Ensemble and students, the evening raised over $390,000 for the Next Generation Fund, which provides scholarships and financial assistance to the Dance Theatre of Harlem School and the Community Engagement Fund, which supports arts education and community programs.
The evening, hosted by CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien, honored singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte for his contributions to the African American community and arts community at large. During his inspiring speech, Belafonte reminded attendees that “Art and artists are the gatekeepers of truth.”
Lynn Whitfield, who served as honorary chairwoman, said she had to support the gala because of what Dance Theatre of Harlem meant in her life.
“It’s an incredible honor for me to be asked,” Whitfield told The Fab Empire. “I was just–they could hardly get it out of their mouths and I said of course because this company, and the existence of this company made me feel like I could follow my dreams as an actress.”
American Ballet Theatre dancer Misty Copeland also supported the gala.
“I don’t think people realized what a big part of the ballet community until they were gone,” Copeland said referencing the Theatre’s hiatus. “And me being a black woman in this world, I saw it. …I saw all these black dancers with nowhere to go because major ballet companies on that level are not taking black ballet dancers with open arms. ”
Still, the company and school is back and better than ever. The ensemble performed Bach Classicalia while students honored Belafonte with a performance to his Coconut Woman.
Credit: Brokaw Photography