The Edison Arts Foundation in partnership with Performing Arts Houston recently facilitated the legendary and world-renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), along with their artistic director, Ms. Virginia Johnson, to two Missouri City institutions: Willowridge High School and Fort Bend Academy of Arts and Dance.
Charity Carter, founder and executive director of Edison Arts Foundation, was beyond excited about offering these opportunities to local young people.
“Edison Arts Foundation advocates for and creates opportunities for our youth to witness Black excellence and train with acclaimed organizations like Dance Theatre of Harlem,” said Carter. “Seeing yourself reflected in Black excellence is priceless.”
And Carter is not lacking in pride for her neighborhood.
“Missouri City is the ‘Show Me City.’ It is not enough to tell our community about the wealth of possibilities that come with passion, purpose and persistence. We need to show them, Edison Arts Foundation was birthed out of Missouri City, but our reach goes much further. Our aim is to provide our community with charitable programs and opportunities that enhance and inspire under-served Black and Brown peoples,” shared Carter.
According to Carter, cultural renaissances have historically been born from the arts and creative ingenuity, the perfect avenues to communicate thousands of ideas without ever uttering a word.
“What if we can show them more? What if we can support historically impactful and highly skilled arts organizations like Dance Theatre of Harlem to meet our youth and offer unforgettable experiences? In truth we ask ourselves, why not,” added Carter.
And “why not,” indeed.
Dance Theatre of Harlem, an American professional ballet company based in Harlem, New York, was founded in 1969 under the directorship of Arthur Mitchell. DTH is the first Black classical ballet company and the first major ballet company to prioritize Black dancers. Johnson is a founding member and former principal dancer of the company.
“It was not about making a ‘Black ballet company,” said Johnson about the company’s founding. “It was to make people aware of the fact that this beautiful art form actually belongs to and can be done by anyone. Arthur Mitchell created this space for a lot of people who had been told, ‘You can’t do this,’ to give them a chance to do what they dreamed of doing.”
Dance Theatre of Harlem continues to produce high-quality works and encourages its dancers to be activists and role models to the communities in which they travel. And they were certainly that at the two free educational dance masterclass workshops sponsored by Edison Arts Foundation and Performing Arts Houston.
The first was held at Willowridge (16301 Chimney Rock Rd., Houston, TX 77053) and was led by DTH instructors Delaney Washington and Kamala Saara, with Edison Arts Foundation instructor Lauren Burke lending her expertise.
When asked why Carter chose Willowridge to host the DTH, she stressed the power and importance of representation.
“Understanding that representation matters, we have reached out to Willowridge High School because we feel they will most benefit from this opportunity. Willowridge is minutes away from our address. The school’s demographic is primarily Black and Brown students in the lower-middle class income region with more than 80% of students in the Free Lunch Program. The Willowridge feeder pattern shows some of the lowest rankings in Fort Bend ISD.”
Carter agrees with the assessment of Project Zero of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, that there are multiple intelligences (musical, bodily-kinesthetic, visual-spatial, linguistic, and others) and fashioned the Edison Arts Foundation to engage its students in ways that highlight their unique strengths and intelligences. Thus, hosting the DTH made perfect sense.
And it was right up PAH’s alley.
Performing Arts Houston connects audiences with exceptional artists through diverse performances and learning experiences. PAH seeks to ignite and cultivate passion for the performing arts and we explore the vast landscape of artistic expression to discover new understandings about ourselves, create community, inspire dialogue, and enrich our world.
That enrichment extended beyond Willowridge as the second masterclass took place at Fort Bend Academy of Arts and Dance (1959 Texas Parkway, Missouri City, TX 77489), led by DTH instructor Lindsay Donnell.
During the workshops, Missouri City Councilwoman Lynn Clouser presented Johnson with a proclamation from Missouri City.