Harlem dance troupe takes UA stand-ins

By Hanh Quach

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Casually tucked behind the fluttering dancers from the Dance Theatre of Harlem, familiar faces disguised in colorful costumes hoisted flags across the stage in the shows' finale "Firebird" Saturday evening at Centennial Hall.

Seven students and staff from the UA were chosen as stand-ins for the final act of the show, said Patrice Kennedy, assistant marketing specialist of cultural affairs.

"We try to choose six to eight members from the community to act as extras wherever we go," said Ryan Taylor, dancer for the troupe adding that the effort correlates with the troupes outreach to community program, Dancing through Barriers.

Fine Arts students Thomas Stefanek, Erika Rominger, Allison Richy, Joannie Garrey, Yvonne Huff, Catherine Anderson and Tracie Anderson and information specialist coordinator of news services Patricia Blackwell appeared the last few minutes of the show.

Caleb Mitchell, dance and sociology sophomore who declined a part due to a full schedule, said the company posted flyers in the Ina E. Gittings Building requesting stand-ins.

The performance Saturday evening included three selections from the company's more than 75-piece repertoire. The first work, Signs and Wonders, was a dance interpretation of traditional music from Africa. The company also performed Euripides' "Medea," finishing with Russian composer Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird."

But Saturday night's performance was only part of a busy schedule the company fulfilled.

Friday afternoon, three dancers and a manager from the Dance Theatre of Harlem appeared at a reception at the African American Cultural Resource Center to detail the goals of the multi-ethnic dance troupe and emphasize the importance of the arts to roughly 40 listeners.

"Dance Theatre is not just a group that performs and leaves. We want to leave something behind," said the company's general manager Woodburne Scholfield.

"In Dancing through Barriers, we go into to the community and try to get something started," dancer Robert Garland said, mentioning a recent visit to Brasilia, Brazil, where the group met the people in the community and educated the people about the importance of art.

The outreach program, Dancing through Barriers, allows the institute, based in Harlem in New York, to complete its mission of "social, educational and artistic" education. The touring company, on the road for more than 30 weeks of the year, meets each community where it performs.

In Tucson, Garland taught a dance class at the UA while others visited various sites in Tucson to "get a feel for the community we'll perform for," performer Zalika Proctor said.

"It was fun having a celebrity teach dance classes," said Mitchell, who's master dance class welcomed Garland Friday.

"It was an experience of a lifetime because not everyone has the opportunity to learn from someone from the Dance Theatre of Harlem," he said.

"People must remember that art and talent are equally as terrible a thing to waste as a mind and education," Taylor said stressing that refining an art form requires discipline, focus and concentration.

"You can find yourself through (art), and people often forget that," he said.

"The goal of Dance Theatre is to have a company of dancers who can do anything," said Garland further defining it as a group with knowledge of all dance styles including modern, tap, ballet, jazz and ethnic dance.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded in 1968 and has been directed since by Arthur Mitchell.

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