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Press Releases

Washington Performing Arts Presents Dance Theatre Of Harlem In Sounds Of Hazel, A World-premiere Ballet

September 22, 2022 | By Amanda Sweet
President, Bucklesweet

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Dance Theatre of Harlem opens the Washington Performing Arts 2022/23 season with the world-premiere ballet,?Sounds of Hazel, and a program also featuring Higher Ground and Le Corsaire Pas de Deux. Performances are October 7 and 8, at Sidney Harman Hall (610 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004). Tickets are available at WashingtonPerformingArts.org, and range from $30 to $80. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.  


Commissioned by Washington Performing Arts and presented in partnership with CityDance, the dynamic Sounds of Hazel honors the life and legacy of Hazel Scott, a Trinidadian-American piano recording artist, bandleader, and singer. Once the darling of Café Society, Scott experienced persecution due to her fervent civil rights activism and alleged political affiliations at the height of McCarthyism. Though her career suffered, Scott’s classical training and natural talent continued to astonish the world. Her expatriate Paris home became a gathering place for prominent Black musicians and artists. 

Scott and her first husband, former U.S. Representative Adam Clayton Powell Jr., made their homes in Washington, D. C., and New York City. Both Scott and Powell were crusaders for civil rights and fierce advocates for their communities. Their son, Adam Clayton Powell III is a member of the D.C. community and was an integral part of the planning for Washington Performing Arts’s Hazel Scott 101st Birthday Celebration programs.? 


Sounds of Hazel: 

The Sounds of Hazel ballet features a creative team of contemporary Black female artists, including Dance Theatre of Harlem’s founding member and artistic director Virginia Johnson, choreographer Tiffany Rea-Fisher, and composer Erica Lewis-Blunt.  


Sounds of Hazel is a work that uses ballet to express the talent, inspiration, and grit that infused Hazel Scott’s existence. She embodied these qualities in a lifetime that spanned the heart of the 20th century. She was a jazz icon like no other. Sounds of Hazel focuses on specific times and places in Hazel Scott’s remarkable life. The ballet takes the audience on a journey aesthetically and sonically through personal and historical scenes from Scott’s home country of Trinidad; her family’s emigration to Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance; her time in NYC during the fight for civil rights; and away to Paris to escape the Red Scare.  


Hazel Scott’s story is a truly American experience that will resonate with audiences from all backgrounds. It is driven by those characteristics that make us the best versions of ourselves: joy, empathy, righteousness, and through it all… music. 


Creating Sounds of Hazel: 

In 2017, Washington Performing Arts’s President & CEO Jenny Bilfield met with Virginia Johnson and Anna Glass, the leaders of Dance Theatre of Harlem, to consider a new project commemorating Scott’s 100th birthday. 


The group discussed the remarkable connections of artistry, geography, history, and lineage that could propel an exciting new work. They found it necessary to create a dance piece without a linear narrative. The project needed the right choreographic talent to bring Scott’s essence to life, and a musical palette that would contextualize the work of a once-in-a-century musician.  


Washington Performing Arts’s Artist-in-Residence, Murray Horwitz and Bilfield sought to develop a piece that could honor Scott’s multi-faceted talents.?? 


“She was more than one type of artist,” Horwitz said. “How do you honor the legacy of someone so hard to recreate?”? 


COVID-19 Health and Safety: Face masks are required for all ticketholders attending Sounds of Hazel at Sidney Harman Hall, regardless of vaccination status. Masks are required, except when actively eating or drinking in designated areas. Please visit the venue's website for the latest health and safety policies: www.shakespearetheatre.org/healthandsafety. 


October 7 and 8 Program: 

“Higher Ground” 
“Le Corsaire pas de Deux” 

“Sounds of Hazel” (world premiere) 


Hazel Scott Related Programming 

In advance of the world premiere of Sounds of Hazel ballet, Washington Performing Arts and Dance Theatre of Harlem, in partnership with the Library of Congress, will host a free preview of Hazel Scott Collection, dance preview and panel discussion on Wednesday, September 28, at the Library of Congress. Several treasures from the Library’s Hazel Scott Collection will be on view at the Library of Congress’ Whittall Pavilion from 5:45-6:45PM. At 7PM in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium, a panel moderated by Hazel Scott biographer (and Hazel Scott?102nd?Birthday Celebration co-curator) Karen Chilton, will include panelists Artistic Director of DTH Virginia Johnson, choreographer of the Hazel ballet Tiffany Rea-Fisher, Hazel’s son Adam Clayton Powell III, and?Janet McKinney, Archivist, Music Division at the Library of Congress. The evening also features a short documentary Dance Theatre of Harlem created in 2021 on the making-of Sounds of Hazel, a short excerpt from?Sounds of Hazel by a solo dancer from DTH, and a short performance by the Janelle Gill Trio featuring an original work and one of Hazel Scott’s favorites.  


To further pay tribute to Scott and contemporaries, Washington Performing Arts presents A Night at Café Society on Friday, November 11th at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club.  A Night at Café Society will evoke the atmosphere of the Greenwich Village and Upper East Side nightspot of the 1930s and ’40s—the first racially integrated nightclub in America —where Scott held court along with the likes of Count Basie, Lena Horne, Django Reinhardt, Billie Holiday, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Zero Mostel. The evening will feature performances by Sheléa, Etienne Charles, Nova Y. Payton, Damien Sneed, Justin Trawick, Tony Walker, and host Mark Gregory, with historically inspired narrative, archival audio and video, and more. Information about Night at Café Society available here 


Washington Performing Arts has led efforts within the broader arts presenting field to honor Scott’s life and artistry, working with Dance Theatre of Harlem to secure additional commissioners and presenters of Sounds of Hazel, and providing an introduction between Scott’s family and the Library of Congress which, in 2020, acquired the collection. Washington Performing Arts produced several digital Hazel Scott events during the pandemic, and emerged with an in-person recital by pianist Michelle Cann at Sixth and I honoring Scott with works she performed, and transcriptions of works she composed or arranged. 


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 towards 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 

Reverend 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 multi-cultural 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. 


About the Company 

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, multi-ethnic 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 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. 


About Washington Performing Arts 

One of the most established and honored performing arts institutions in America, Washington Performing Arts has engaged for more than half a century with artists, audiences, students, and civic life. The city is truly our stage: for decades, in venues ranging from concert halls and clubs to public parks, we have presented a tremendous range of artists and art forms, from the most distinguished symphony orchestras to both renowned and emerging artists in classical music, gospel music, jazz, international genres, and more. Washington Performing Arts also have an ever-expanding artistic and educational presence on the internet, addressing the programming challenges of this time of pandemic while envisioning ongoing opportunities for online connection and community in a post-COVID world. 

Washington Performing Arts deeply values its partnerships with local organizations and other arts institutions. Through events online and in myriad performance venues and neighborhoods, Washington Performing Arts engages international visiting artists in community programs and introduce local artists to wider audiences. We place a premium on establishing artists as a continuing presence in the lives of both young people and adults through residencies and education programs. 

For its achievements, Washington Performing Arts has been recognized with a National Medal of Arts and with three Mayor’s Arts Awards from the DC Government. We have now embarked upon our second half-century, ever inspired by the motto of our founder, Patrick Hayes: “Everybody in, nobody out.” 


Washington Performing Arts on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ WashingtonPerformingArtsSociety   

Washington Performing Arts on Instagram: @WashingtonPerformingArts 

Washington Performing Arts on Twitter: @WashPerformArts 


PHOTOS: Please contact amanda@bucklesweet.com for Sounds of Hazel imagery 





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