Washington, D.C. — “In Performance at the White House: Dance Theatre of Harlem” showcases an evening of celebration at the White House in honor of Arthur Mitchell and Dance Theatre of Harlem. The program airs Wednesday, June 28, 2006, at 8 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide. (Check local listings.) President and Mrs. Bush welcome Arthur Mitchell for a night of performances by Dance Theatre of Harlem School with guest artists Xzavier Cave, Kip Sturm, Rasta Thomas and Donald Williams. The evening, taped February 6, 2006, also features singers Harolyn Blackwell, Reverend Al Green, Audra McDonald and LeAnn Rimes. Additionally, the program includes interviews with Arthur Mitchell and a behind the scenes look at Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Arthur Mitchell, artistic director of Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), became the first African-American male to become a permanent member of a major ballet company when he joined the New York City Ballet in 1955. There he quickly became principal dancer. The death of Martin Luther King Jr., inspired Mitchell to provide children – especially those living in Harlem – with the opportunity to study dance. He began teaching classes in a remodeled garage. In 1969, Mitchell and Karel Shook, his mentor and ballet instructor, founded Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Dance Theatre of Harlem encompasses a dance company, a leading arts education center, and a national and international education and outreach program. The DTH School offers training to more than 1,000 young people annually through professional and pre-professional dance programs, as well as a community program open to any child who wants to study dance. Dancing Through Barriers, DTH’s education and outreach program, takes arts education to young people all over the world. Now in its fourth decade, DTH has grown into a multicultural dance institution with an extraordinary legacy of providing opportunities for creative expression and artistic excellence.
A renowned operatic soprano, Harolyn Blackwell began her career on Broadway, in Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story.” The transition from the Broadway stage to the opera house came easily to Blackwell, and she has performed in operatic productions and in recitals all over the world. In an acclaimed career, she is particularly admired for her performances in “Porgy and Bess” and “Candide.” A native of Washington, D.C., Blackwell has also won critical plaudits as a recording artist.
Al Green started singing professionally at age nine when he and his brothers formed a gospel quartet. Later, a pop group that Green formed with high school friends recorded a single, “Back Up Train,” that went to number five on the national R & B chart. In 1969, Green began a partnership with renowned bandleader, arranger and trumpeter Willie Mitchell. The two men collaborated on eight albums that sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Beginning in 1976, Green turned his concentration to gospel music, recording numerous albums. And since 1979, the Reverend Al Green has lead his Baptist congregation in Memphis.
Earning an unprecedented three Tony Awards before the age of 30 for “Carousel,” “Master Class” and “Ragtime” and later for “A Raisin in the Sun,” singer and actress Audra McDonald sings regularly with all the major American orchestras, including the Boston Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic. She won an Emmy nomination for her performance in HBO’s “Wit,” opposite Emma Thompson. Her solo albums, “Way Back to Paradise,” “How Glory Goes,” and “Happy Songs,” containing both popular standards and contemporary music theater numbers, have won a wide audience.
LeAnn Rimes has made the rare transition from child prodigy to seasoned artist. Her debut album “Blue” made her a star at 13, selling more than eight million copies and earning her two Grammy Awards. She has sold more than 37 million records and received numerous awards. Rimes’ “You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs” made history, reaching the top in three Billboard categories – country, pop and contemporary Christian. Her recording “How Do I Live” was number one for eight months and spent more than two hundred weeks on the country charts. Rimes has also co-authored two children’s books, “Jag” and “Jag’s Best Friend,” with her husband Dean Sheremet.
“In Performance at the White House” began with an East Room recital by the legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz in 1978, and since then has embraced virtually every genre of American music: pop, country, gospel, jazz and the blues among them. The series was created to showcase the rich fabric of American culture in the setting of the nation’s most famous home. During the administration of President George W. Bush, programs have showcased the United States Marine Band, the singing talents of Natalie Cole and the best of Broadway musicals.
“In Performance at the White House: Dance Theatre of Harlem” is a production of WETA Washington, D.C., which created the series. The executive producers are Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson. The producer is Jackson Frost. Funding for this broadcast is provided by The Annenberg Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. The live performance in the East Room was produced and presented by the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, an important supporter of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s work.
WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television. WETA’s other productions and co-productions include “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” “Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal,” “The Kennedy Center Presents,” and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including “The Civil War” and “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.” Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available on the Web site at weta.org.