Ballet Across America Spotlights Women’s Creativity and Leadership

Dance Theatre of Harlem and Miami City Ballet perform, May 28–June 2

is a special weeklong event that will bring TWO major American companies to the Kennedy Center this May and June: and .

Dance Theatre of Harlem is recognized for its storied history as one of the early companies celebrating the culture and diversity of African Americans in ballet. Miami City Ballet is renowned for its vibrant approach to the fast, thrilling neoclassical repertory of Balanchine, Robbins, and more.

This year, we were inspired by great women leading the way in ballet. For years, the industry has discussed the dearth of female artistic leadership in the country, even as women are a major part of a company’s corps of dancers. This is now slowly changing, and at Dance Theatre of Harlem and at Miami City Ballet, both artistic leaders acclaimed for their vision and foresight, have been at the leading edge of this seismic shift.

Find out more about the great dancing that you can see during Ballet Across America week — along with a unique world premiere from another inspiring female artist,, who we commissioned specially for this festival.

Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Program (May 28–30)

Meet the woman behind the program: Virginia Johnson

Virginia Johnson dances in Glen Tetley’s Greening

A D.C. native, Johnson performed with Dance Theatre of Harlem for 28 years under the direction of Arthur Mitchell, dancing lead roles in Concerto Barocco, Fall River Legend, Giselle, and more. She has choreographed multiple ballets and received the Pola Nirenska Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Performing Arts Society, among other notable mentions. Johnson became the company’s artistic director in 2009, and her carefully curated program includes some of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s best commissions — a true testament to her talent as an artistic leader.

Choreographer: George Balanchine Composer: Mikail Glinka

What are you seeing?

Crystal Serrano, Da’ Von Doane, Lindsey Croop in Valse Fantaisie. Photo by Dave Andrews.

Hailed as a “small gem” by The New York Times, George Balanchine’s Valse Fantasie is a short and sweet ballet known for its continual motion and elevated, majestic petite allegro (a ballet term meaning small jumps). Look for pristine lines in the form of high kicks and stunning arabesques!

What are you hearing?

Valse Fantaisie was created by Russian composer Mikail Glinka. The piece was originally written for solo piano in 1839, and later revised for a full orchestra in 1856. Glinka took a melancholy approach when engineering this wistful, pensive score.

Choreographer: Dianne McIntyre

What are you seeing?

Ingrid Silva and Alison Stroming in Change. Photo by Kent Becker.

Change promises an honest reflection of the past through the perspective of a dedicated and insightful African American performer. Originally commissioned by Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2016, Change was developed as a part of the company’s new initiative: Women Who Move Us. Conceived by celebrated modern dancer and choreographer Dianne McIntyre, this female trio honors African American women by evoking the memory of significant female figures throughout history, including some present-day names.

“Dianne holds the world to a high standard. She wants to not just be making dances. She wants to bring truth to the stage. How beautiful is that?” — Virginia Johnson, The New York Times

What are you hearing?

McIntyre’s ballet is set to two ardent spirituals titled “By and By” and “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Round.” These songs originated when the institution of slavery oppressed millions of people in the United States, and they continue to occupy a meaningful place in African American history to this day.

Choreographer: Claudia Schreier Composer: Jessie Montgomery

What are you seeing?

The company of Dance Theatre of Harlem in Passages. Photo by Brian Callan.

Premiering in May of 2019, Passage mixes classical and contemporary ideas to create a unique performance experience. The choreographer, Claudia Schreier, has created over 25 ballets for organizations including American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company and the Ailey School.

What are you hearing?

The score for Passage was created by violinist and composer Jessie Montgomery, a New York-based artist who became involved with this project through her position as a Virginia B. Toulmin Fellow at the Centre for Ballet and the Arts. Her active partnership with Claudia Schreier has led to the completion of this new ballet.

Its world premiere will be at the Virginia Arts Festival, less than a month before the work is scheduled to premiere in D.C. at the Kennedy Center. Witness an inspiring collaboration by a phenomenal choreographer and composer — both identifying as artists and women of color.

Choreographer: Geoffrey Holder Composer: Holder and Tania León with original percussive band

What are you seeing?

Audiences will experience a colorful and vibrant Caribbean wedding ceremony celebrating a mix of cultures with Geoffrey Holder’s Dougla. In Trinidad (Holder’s place of birth), the term “dougla” is used to refer to a person of mixed Indian/South Asian and African descent. The ballet honors these themes of mixed identity and diversity with eye-catching colors, impressive costumes, and dynamic movement.

What are you hearing?

Percussive rhythms engineered by Holder himself in collaboration with composer and conductor Tania León make up the musical backdrop for the festive performance. The original percussive band is set to perform for this particular rendition at Ballet Across America.

Shared Celebration Program (May 31)

Friday of Ballet Across America week is when we celebrate both companies on the same night, all while offering an exciting glimpse of the future. Both Miami City Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem will perform on this evening, and we also present the world premiere of a work specially commissioned for the evening, Gustave Le Gray №1 by Pam Tanowitz, featuring dancers of both companies.

Choreographer: Pam Tanowitz Composer: Caroline Shaw What are you seeing?

This world premiere has been commissioned specially for Ballet Across America, and will feature dancers from both Dance Theatre of Harlem and Miami City Ballet. Choreographed by Pam Tanowitz, the work will feature some of the abstract movement ideas for which she is so renowned.

What are you hearing?

The score for this Kennedy Center commission was composed by Caroline Shaw, a vocalist, violinist, composer, and producer based in New York. Shaw was the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013 for Partita for 8 Voices, written for the Grammy®-winning Roomful of Teeth, of which she is a member.

This program will also include George Balanchine’s, Claudia Schreier’s and Geoffrey Holder’s .

Miami City Ballet Program (June 1 & 2)

Meet the woman behind the program: Lourdes Lopez

Lourdes Lopez in Balanchine’s Theme and Variations at New York City Ballet. Photo by Steven Caras.

Lopez was recently named one of “The Most Influential People in Dance Today” by Dance Magazine. She was a Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet — performing with the company for a total of 23 years — and danced for two legends of the art form (George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins) while a member of the company. She co-founded The Cuban Artists Fund and currently serves on the Ford Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Lopez’s program pairs various celebrated classics with a piece from Justin Peck inspired by Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, providing an exciting twist to the lineup.

Choreographer: George Balanchine Composer: Charles Gounod

What are you seeing?

Lauren Fadeley in Walpurgisnacht Ballet. Photo by Daniel Azoulay.

Marrying classicism to kitsch, Balanchine’s Walpurgisnacht Ballet features 24 ballerinas soaring across the stage with utter abandon joined by a lone male dancer. Elegance gives way to robust displays of technique with a solo role hand-tailored for Suzanne Farrell in 1980. Clad in purple with hair flowing freely, the corps de ballet creates pleasing portraits — presenting delicate poses and exuding a graceful symmetry.

What are you hearing?

Gounod’s passionate music from the opera Faust sets the tone for Balanchine’s ballet, allowing a sense of joyful revelry to command the stage.

Choreographer: Sir Kenneth MacMillan Composer: Richard Rodgers

Jennifer Lauren and Renan Cerdeiro in Carousel Pas de Deux. Photo by Gene Schiavone.

What are you seeing?

Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s deeply touching pas de deux in Carousel is a quintessential expression of ecstatic — and dangerous — young love. The Royal National Theater’s revival of the beloved musical in 1992 was the last work MacMillan ever choreographed.

What are you hearing?

Rodger’s skillful score is captivating with its romanticism, matching the dancers’ relationship as a “vulnerable, ardent, defensive” Louise thrusts herself freely into her partner’s waiting arms (The New York Times).

Choreographers: Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp Composer: Johannes Brahms

What are you seeing?

Miami City Ballet dancers in Brahms/Handel.

Brahms/Handel is a work which emerged from a once-in-a-century collaboration. Two of America’s greatest choreographers — Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp — joined forces in 1984 to create this wild rush of a ballet for New York City Ballet. A mob of dancers in green and blue kick up a nonstop storm of excitement, wit, and fun.

Fun fact: Miami City Ballet’s now-artistic director Lourdes Lopez has a rather unique familiarity with this ballet, as she is the only dancer ever to have performed both the green and blue ballerina role.

What are you hearing?

The music is the 25 brilliant variations Brahms composed on a theme by the baroque composer George Frideric Handel.

Choreographer: Justin Peck Composer: Boshuslav Martinu

What are you seeing?

With the spirit of creative collaboration in mind, Justin Peck sought out visual artist Shepard Fairey, renowned for his mural at Wynwood Walls, to develop a vibrant visual design for Heatscape — Peck’s second commission for Miami City Ballet.

What are you hearing?

Heatscape is set to Martinu’s relatively unknown Piano Concerto №1, which Peck considered “a hidden gem” that is “rich with texture, innovation, and relevance to the current day.”

The Kennedy Center

The nation’s performing arts center.

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The nation’s performing arts center.

The Kennedy Center

The nation’s performing arts center.