Dance Theatre of Harlem and UNCSA forge multi-year educational and performance partnership

UNCSA and Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) today announced a multi-year partnership, uniting two esteemed institutions to elevate educational and professional opportunities for student dancers, and provide opportunities to revitalize iconic works from the DTH canon as well as co-curate new works and creative projects.

The collaboration between the School of Dance at UNCSA, a highly ranked conservatory training students in ballet and contemporary dance, and Dance Theatre of Harlem, known for its commitment to educating the next generation of diverse dancers, signifies a new chapter in the evolution of both organizations. Through the partnership, student dancers from UNCSA will have the extraordinary opportunity to train with the renowned artists of DTH in New York while dancers from DTH will visit the UNCSA campus in Winston-Salem to conduct educational activities and performances on campus and throughout North Carolina.

The DTH-UNCSA partnership is made possible with funding and programmatic support by the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts in Winston-Salem and is part of a larger effort to expand and evolve industry partnerships for UNCSA.

UNCSA students work with DTH for "Firebird" / Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima

UNCSA students work with former DTH principal dancer Donald Williams for "Firebird" / Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima

The first phase of the partnership will culminate with performances in North Carolina of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s iconic “Firebird,” featuring John Taras’ choreography and Geoffrey Holder’s original Caribbean-inspired costumes, with DTH company artists Alexandra Hutchinson and Derek Brockington dancing the lead roles of Firebird and Young Man on opening night alongside student dancers, with student dancers reprising those roles on subsequent performances. The UNCSA Symphony Orchestra, conducted by UNCSA School of Music faculty member Mark Norman, will perform Stravinsky’s score. For this bespoke version of the production, UNCSA School of Design & Production faculty member Clifton Taylor will design the lighting in keeping with Geoffrey Holder’s vision. UNCSA Dance Costume Shop Director Marissa McCullough will create additional costumes based on Holder’s original designs. Performances take place April 25-27 at High Point Theatre.

"This partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem exemplifies our commitment to providing our students with unparalleled opportunities for artistic growth and professional development," said Brian Cole, chancellor of UNCSA. "By collaborating with one of the world's most esteemed dance companies, with a proven mission of educating the next generation of diverse artists, we are ensuring that our students receive training at the highest level, further positioning them for success in their careers. We are so fortunate to have Dean Endalyn T. Outlaw to help forge such impactful partnerships, and are grateful to the Kenan Institute for their visionary support.”

"The thrill of remounting Dance Theatre of Harlem's iconic ‘Firebird’ in partnership with UNCSA's School of Dance, under the guidance of former DTH principal dancer Endalyn Outlaw, is akin to breathing new life into a timeless masterpiece,” said DTH Artistic Director Robert Garland. “Together, we embark on a journey of artistic resurrection, weaving passion, talent and innovation into the fabric of dance history."

UNCSA students and DTH company artists Alexandra Hutchinson and Derek Brockington / Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima

UNCSA students and DTH company artists Alexandra Hutchinson and Derek Brockington / Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima

DTH Executive Director Anna Glass added, "The multi-year partnership between Dance Theatre of Harlem and UNCSA heralds a transformative era in dance education and performance. Through collaborative efforts bridging dancers and students, faculty and administration, we sculpt a tapestry of excellence, diversity and innovation that transcends boundaries and propels the art of dance into new realms of brilliance."

Seven UNCSA students traveled to New York over spring break in March 2024 to train with DTH dancers, learning the John Taras choreography for “Firebird,” created exclusively for DTH in 1982 and last performed by the company in 2004. Former DTH principal dancers Charmaine Hunter, who danced the role of Firebird, and Donald Williams, who originated the role of Young Man, are serving as repetiteurs, working with student dancers at UNCSA and in New York. Following the UNCSA performances, the work will continue to evolve, ultimately returning to Dance Theatre of Harlem’s repertoire in future seasons, with UNCSA student dancers performing as guests in the corps de ballet at select engagements. Additionally, the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra will record “Firebird” for future DTH performances on the university’s new label, UNCSA Media. The next phase of development will also see the addition of scenic backdrops originally designed by Geoffrey Holder. These visual masterpieces were a hallmark of the production and will be recreated in consultation with Leo Holder, who carries on his father’s legacy.

"We are thrilled to partner with Dance Theatre of Harlem – a company that holds a special place in my heart – to provide exceptional opportunities for our student dancers to collaborate with the talented artists in this company,” said Dean Endalyn T. Outlaw, of the School of Dance. Outlaw, who was formerly director of Dance Theatre of Harlem School in addition to principal dancer with the company, expressed her enthusiasm for the burgeoning affiliation. "I am excited about presenting the revival of 'Firebird,' which will showcase the talents of DTH company members Alexandra Hutchinson and Derrick Brockington, as well as students from our ballet program who were gifted the opportunity to learn from the former DTH principals Charmaine Hunter and Donald Williams," she added.

UNCSA students prepare for "Firebird" / Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima

UNCSA students prepare for "Firebird" / Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima

Outlaw emphasized the significance of 'Firebird' in the history of Dance Theatre of Harlem, stating, "This iconic production has inspired generations of dancers and holds a special place in the history of Dance Theatre of Harlem as one of its signature works. We are honored to contribute to its resurgence and eagerly anticipate the potential that this unique partnership between UNCSA and DTH holds for the future."

“For over 30 years, the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts has leveraged its position within a premier public conservatory by serving as an incubator and accelerator for new ideas and creative partnerships to shape the future of the arts at UNCSA, and beyond,” said Kevin Bitterman, Executive Director of the Kenan Institute. Throughout its history, many of the Kenan Institute’s efforts have bridged geographies. These priorities have included supporting professional pathways for artists that begin at UNCSA and spread outward, as well as bringing renowned artists and projects to the UNCSA campus and surrounding communities.

About “Firebird” and Spring Dance at UNCSA

Dance Theatre of Harlem’s iconic “Firebird” places the Russian folk tale about a magical bird that triumphs over evil in a tropical Caribbean setting. John Taras’ choreography to Stravinsky’s familiar score was further enlivened by sets and costumes by Geoffrey Holder, reflecting his Trinidadian roots. The DTH production, created in 1982, was a tremendous success wherever it played for more than 20 years.

When Misty Copeland visited UNCSA in 2022, she described how meeting Stephanie Dabney — who performed as a principal dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem from 1979 through 1994 and was best known for her performances in “Firebird” — opened her eyes to an overlooked history of Black female dancers. “Stephanie brought so much to my life," Copeland said. "To be able to see someone who has literally walked in your shoes and shared so many similar experiences, and this iconic role of the Firebird. She made a huge contribution to the art form.”

Alexandra Hutchinson and Derek Brockington, both acclaimed principal dancers with Dance Theatre of Harlem, are renowned for their dynamic performances and technical prowess. Sharing the stage with UNCSA student dancers, they will bring their unparalleled artistry to the roles of the Firebird and Young Man.

In addition to “Firebird,” the Spring Dance program will feature premieres by UNCSA alumni, including “Inside Voice” by Trey McIntyre (H.S. Diploma ‘87), and a new ballet work, “Show Me,” by Jim Vincent (Dance ’78). The evening continues with Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” choreographed by UNCSA School of Dance faculty Britt Juleen Gonzalez, and set to an arrangement for percussion performed live by the Vesna Duo comprising UNCSA School of Music faculty Ksenija Komljenović on marimba and Liana Pailodze Harron on piano.

The performances will take place Thursday – Friday, April 25-26 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, April 27, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at High Point Theatre (220 E. Commerce Ave., High Point). Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for non-UNCSA students with ID and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 336-721-1945.

About Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem is a leading dance institution of unparalleled global acclaim, encompassing a professional touring company, a leading studio school, and a national and international education and community outreach program. Each component of Dance Theatre of Harlem carries a solid commitment toward enriching the lives of young people and adults around the world through the arts. Founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, Dance Theatre of Harlem is considered “one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings” (The New York Times). Shortly after the assassination of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mitchell was inspired to start a school that would offer children — especially those in Harlem, the community in which he was born — the opportunity to learn about dance and the allied arts. Now in its sixth decade, Dance Theatre of Harlem has grown into a multicultural dance institution with an extraordinary legacy of providing opportunities for creative expression and artistic excellence that continues to set standards in the performing arts. Dance Theatre of Harlem has achieved unprecedented success, bringing innovative and bold new forms of artistic expression to audiences in New York City, across the country and around the world.

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 18-member, multiethnic 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 Arthur Mitchell’s belief that ballet belongs to everyone. Through performances, community engagement and arts education, the company carries forward Dance Theatre of Harlem’s message of empowerment through the arts for all.

Dance Theatre of Harlem celebrates its 55th anniversary season this week, April 11-14, at New York City Center. Tickets can be purchased online or catch them on tour around the country. For more information visit the Dance Theatre of Harlem website.


The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) is a top-ranked arts conservatory and America’s first state-supported arts school. The nation’s only public university of five arts disciplines on one campus, UNCSA prepares emerging artists for careers in dance, design and production, drama, filmmaking, and music at the undergraduate through post-graduate levels, as well as through a specialized high school with free tuition for in-state residents. UNCSA provides industry-leading instruction in an inclusive environment where students are encouraged to leverage the arts as a mechanism for change. Interdisciplinary opportunities arising from the unique arts ecosystem on campus at UNCSA prepare artists to enter an evolving global arts and entertainment industry. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“the City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina System when it was formed in 1972. For more information, visit

About the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts

The Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts was established in 1993 to strengthen the arts by initiating and incubating new ideas within the various constituencies and settings of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). By leveraging the extraordinary talents and creative energies of students, faculty, staff and alumni to bring distinction to UNCSA, the Kenan Institute acts as a springboard to the broader creative community. For more information, visit

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April 09, 2024