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Season opener! DTH returns to Washington Performing Arts with the world-premiere performances of a new ballet honoring American music icon Hazel Scott, plus Higher Ground scored with Stevie Wonder’s Motown hits.

We are honored and delighted to launch our 2022/23 Season with the illustrious Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), a frequent collaborator whose very first D.C. performance Washington Performing Arts presented in 1973.

In this special three-performance engagement at Sidney Harman Hall, DTH stages their acclaimed Higher Ground, a 2021 social commentary set to Stevie Wonder's Motown hits. The piece mixes neoclassical dancing with contemporary African-American social dancing, as choreographed by Dance Theatre of Harlem's resident choreographer Robert Garland.

For the second half of the program, DTH presents the world-premiere ballet, Sounds of Hazel, co-commissioned by Washington Performing Arts, and inspired by the life and work of Hazel Scott—the prodigiously gifted Trinidadian-American jazz and classical pianist, bandleader, recording artist, and star of stage and screen. Scott, also known for her fervent civil rights activism, suffered persecution at the height of her fame amid the hysteria of McCarthyism. DTH founding member and artistic director Virginia Johnson, choreographer Tiffany Rea-Fisher, and composer Erica Lewis-Blunt spearhead the Sounds of Hazel creative team.

In Rea-Fisher’s words: “Hazel Scott was a diva with a capital ‘D,’ but she was also super-grounded. She was not afraid to be raw and rough while also being glamorous. Her erasure from history was intentional because she was so audacious. People actively tried to erase her…so to be able to not only not erase her but celebrate her for all that she is and was is really super-super exciting.”

Presented in partnership with CityDance.

National Endowment for the Arts Logo

Washington Performing Arts's Hazel Scott 102nd Birthday Celebration is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Lydia Micheaux Marshall, Dr. Gary Mather and Ms. Christina Co Mather, Barbara Myers and Tom Gallagher, Adam Clayton Powell III and Irene M. Solet, and Jenny Bilfield and Joel Phillip Friedman.

Special thanks to the following lead supporters of Washington Performing Arts’s mission-driven work: Jacqueline Badger Mars and Mars, Incorporated; the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Program and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts; D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities; and the Dallas Morse Coors Foundation for the Performing Arts.


DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities

Related Event

Celebrating Hazel Scott: Pianist, Singer, Actress and Activist
Wed, Sep 28, 7 p.m.
Library of Congress Coolidge Auditorium

Karen Chilton, biographer
Virginia Johnson, Artistic Director, Dance Theatre of Harlem
Tiffany Rea-Fisher, choreographer
Adam Clayton Powell III, Hazel Scott’s son
Janet McKinney, Archivist, Music Division, Library of Congress
Daphne Marcel Lee, dancer
The Janelle Gill Trio

This special evening salutes a pathbreaking Black artist whose legacy continues to resonate today. Brilliant and glamorous, fluent in seven languages, Hazel Scott was a prodigiously talented jazz and classical pianist, a true media star who enjoyed fame on the concert stage, in film and in television in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. Defying segregation and breaking racial barriers as a performer, she would become an influential Civil Rights activist whose courageous testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities damaged a remarkable career.

Join us to view an excerpt from a new work created to honor her artistry and her extraordinary life, Dance Theatre of Harlem’s soon-to-be-premiered Sounds of Hazel, co-commissioned by Washington Performing Arts. The artist’s biographer Karen Chilton moderates a panel discussion bringing together Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Artistic Director Virginia Johnson, choreographer Tiffany Rea-Fisher, Hazel Scott’s son, Adam Clayton Powell III, and Janet McKinney, Archivist, Music Division, Library of Congress. The Janelle Gill Trio performs to cap off the evening.

On view from 5:45 pm to 6:45 pm, Whittall Pavilion: Treasures from the Library’s Hazel Scott Collection

Presented in cooperation with Washington Performing Arts and Dance Theatre of Harlem