At Harlem Stage, Bringing Downtown Dance Uptown

Since the inception of Harlem Stage’s dance series E-Moves 25 years ago, that “E” has stood for several categories of artists: Emerging. Evolving. Established. But the series itself has always stood for one goal in particular: providing space and resources for artists of color to develop their work.

“We found that there was an uneven playing field,” Harlem Stage’s artistic director, Patricia Cruz, said recently about the series’ origins. Choreographers of color, especially African American ones, had less support, she said: “We provided that platform.”

To date, the series has helped more than 300 dance artists. One of its intended effects has been to take choreographers who work mainly “downtown,” in white-dominated dance institutions, and bring them “uptown” to Harlem.

For the 25th anniversary season, Cruz invited back five major choreographers who have had close relationships with Harlem Stage, which is celebrating its own 40th anniversary. The season began in October with Ronald K. Brown’s company, Evidence, and continued in January with Urban Bush Women. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company kicks off the spring installment on April 19, followed by Nora Chipaumire in May and Camille A. Brown in June.

In the E-Moves tradition of bringing attention to the next generation, most of these artists have chosen to share their program with an emerging one. Camille Brown selected five. Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, the founder of Urban Bush Women, has already handed off the leadership of that company (also turning 40 this year) to Chanon Judson and Mame Diarra Speis, who presented their work.

A scene from Bill T. Jones’s “Chapel/Chapter,” which had its premiere at Harlem Stage Gatehouse.Credit…Ruby Washington
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