Thursday, August 11, 2022 Aug 11, 2022
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From Bishop to Broadway

How—and why—white kids from SMU plan to help a dance theater in Harlem.
By Jenny Block |
DIGNITY RESTORED: DTH performers and Arthur Mitchell hope their troupe can be saved.
photography courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem

Every year, students from smu take a trip to New York City—the “Bishop to Broadway” trip they call it. It’s for students interested in public affairs and corporate communication. The Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) was one of this year’s stops. The SMU professors thought it would give the kids a look into how nonprofits work. Instead it inspired students to help with efforts to save the 30-year-old company.

The DTH is renowned. Co-founded by Arthur Mitchell, the first black male to become a principal dancer in a professional ballet company, the theater is the only classical ballet company in the nation comprised solely of black dancers. Since 2004, it has struggled to stay alive.

Five dance and five public affairs students will work to revitalize DTH, with 10 weeks of study at SMU and then 10 weeks in Harlem. The students will focus on how the company is organized, who might be potential donors and patrons, and how to brand the company and get that brand out to the public. At SMU, they’ll study nonprofit organizations and American dance history. Then, in Harlem, they’ll provide on-site arts consulting for the DTH.

Time will tell if they’re successful. But as to why they’re doing this—that’s easy. “The kids were amazed” by Mitchell and his company, says Maria Dixon, an assistant professor at SMU and the head of this project. “They were moved to tears.”