Dance Theatre of Harlem promotes arts

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Tickets managed to sell out for a performance that Albany State University officials said was part of an ongoing campaign to promote the arts and arts education in Southwest Georgia.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble stopped into the Albany Municipal Auditorium Tuesday morning to conduct an educational workshop for area school children just hours before performing a show at the same facility at 7:30 p.m.

At the workshop, which took place at 11 a.m., there were students from Dougherty and Lee counties present. Students from Colquitt County were also invited to attend.

"We invited all surrounding school systems," said Sandra Parker, committee member of ASU's Lyceum Performance Series. "When there is an opportunity for students to see renowned dancers here, it's like bringing New York to Albany."

Promoting the arts is a cause even the dancers themselves are committed to.

"We are coming to reach out to different communities," said Alexandra Jacob Wilson, a member of the ensemble. "Our whole goal is to reach out to educate the public.

"Hopefully we can find a new generation of young dancers."

During Tuesday's performance, the ensemble's 14 dancers were hoping to spark interest through a mixed bill of contemporary, neoclassical and jazz influence.

"Ballet is an art form that not everyone has access to," Wilson said. "In New York, we are lucky. We love to come to other places where (ballet) is not as exposed."

Tickets for the evening performance, which were already sold out by the time the morning workshop started, had a price range of $5-$20.

The Albany State Department of Fine Arts and Lyceum is currently engaged in bringing the arts and arts education to the forefront in this region of the state, which the dance ensemble was able to help with thanks to the National Endowment of the Arts $10,000 grant recently awarded the institution.

"We were very fortunate to receive grant support for arts (education)," said Leroy Bynum, dean of the ASU College of Arts and Humanities. "We (Albany) are not big enough to support a dance company."

Judging from the response, using the dancing community to promote the arts seems like the right approach.

"We were afraid people wouldn't know about it (or fail to get excited)," Bynum said. "We got the dance community involved, and that (turned out) to be a stroke of genius. It's a wonderful way to get the word out.

"It represents the mission of ASU to be the place for arts education. We see it as our obligation to provide arts education and arts entertainment. This does that beautifully."

Based on the support received from the community, Bynum said there is a good chance Albany State will bring something like this to town again.

"We are absolutely stunned and surprised with the enthusiasm," he said.