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Northrop Centennial Commission

Now a singular presence in the ballet world, the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company tours nationally and internationally, presenting a powerful vision for ballet in the 21st century. The 17-member, multi-ethnic company performs a forward-thinking repertoire that includes treasured classics, neoclassical works by George Balanchine and resident choreographer Robert Garland, as well as innovative contemporary works that use the language of ballet to celebrate African American culture. This program includes the Northrop Centennial CommissionHigher Ground, with choreography by Robert Garland and music by Stevie Wonder.

This event will be captioned, with other accessibility services available upon request.


“The work [Higher Ground], by the company’s resident choreographer, Robert Garland, was vital in that moment but feels prescient after the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that took over cities this summer. The combination of Mr. Garland’s rich movement vocabulary, which mines and melds ballet with modern dance and street forms, and Mr. Wonder’s music was intoxicating — a promise for the future.” —Gia Kourlas, The New York Times


Learn More

The content below derives from the Northrop Across Campus Program that supports Northrop's mission towards intersections between performing arts and education for the benefit of all participants now and for generations to come.

Explore These Themes

Find ways to make thematic connections to these suggested courses.

African American Studies

American Studies/American Cultural Studies/American History

Early Childhood Education

Global Studies

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Social Justice/Civil Rights


Music: R&B, Popular, Soul, Gospel, Funk, and Jazz

Dance: Ballet, Contemporary, Multi-Genre

Start a conversation about the performance, or reflect on the performance, using these questions as inspiration.

In 2019, Dance Theatre of Harlem celebrated its 50th anniversary. The company was initially formed in 1969 following the Civil Rights Movement, specifically in response to the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  • How can or should art respond to social justice?
  • Can dance be an act of social justice or protest in itself? Why or why not?
  • How has dance and performance art changed with time in response to civil unrest - even in this past year?

Company co-founder Arthur Mitchell was the first Black male principal dancer to dance with the New York City Ballet. Other pioneering dancers include Raven Wilkinson, who made history in 1955 when she signed on to dance full-time with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, making her the first Black woman to dance with a premier dance company. Then, in 1990, Lauren Anderson became the first Black female principal dancer with Houston Ballet, and famously in 2015, Misty Copeland became the first Black female principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. 

  • In what ways has Arthur Mitchell changed the way Black dancers are viewed in classical ballet and the overall professional dance community?
  • What impact have these barrier-breakers had on the classical dance world?

The Dance Theatre of Harlem continues to focus on community outreach, education, and engagement, specifically within its Harlem neighborhood in New York City.

  • What significance does building a legacy or community have on the meaning and maintaining cultural traditions?
  • In what ways can the cultural tradition of dance shape our identities? How might early interaction with dance一or any other type of cultural practice一shape identity at a young age?