Dabcve Tuheatren of Dance Theatre of Harlem, which will be at Jacob’s Pillow’ through Sunday.
Dabcve Tuheatren of Dance Theatre of Harlem, which will be at Jacob’s Pillow’ through Sunday. (Photo by Rachel Neville)

BECKET -- Fresh off its opening week appearance last season, Dance Theatre of Harlem returns to Jacob's Pillow this week with an all-new program.

The engagement begins at 8 tonight inn the Ted Shawn Theatre, where the company will be performing through Sunday.

Curtain is 8 nightly through Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Led by artistic director Virginia Johnson, the company will perform Donald Byrd's "Contested Space," which features a plethora of solos and duets; "past-carry-forward", created for DTH by Tanya Wideman-Davis and Thaddeus Davis, which conveys the spirit and significance of the Harlem Renaissance; the late choreographer Ulysses Dove's "Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven," set to "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten" by Arvo Pärt.

"The founding and history of Dance Theatre of Harlem is an inspiring chapter in the story of dance in America," Pillow executive and artistic director Ella Baff said in a news release. "Today, the company continues to hold a special place in dance, with dramatic choreography and exciting dancers who perform with great heart and soul."

Dance Theatre of Harlem recently has recently returned to fulltime operation from a nine-year hiatus, during which time the school (including the performing Ensemble) continued to operate.

The company marked its reemergence with its Jacob's Pillow Festival 2013 engagement. Under the direction of Johnson, herself a celebrated ballerina and the founding editor-in-chief of Pointe Magazine, DTH boasts stellar classically-trained dancers from a variety of backgrounds including Dance Theatre of Harlem School, American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, School Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Academy of Ballet, The Australian Ballet, Boston Ballet, and The Ailey School.

The company was founded by Arthur Mitchell, who made history in 1955 as the first African American member of the New York City Ballet. Following Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968, Mitchell shifted his focus from his own career to the careers of young dancers of color. After leaving NYCB and founding the Dance Theatre of Harlem School, a professional company was soon established and made its official debut at Jacob's Pillow in 1970. After many years of success, DTH went on hiatus in 2004.

After its company debut at the Pillow, DTH returned in 1973 and 1997. Forty years after this debut, and as part of the revival of DTH, the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble was invited to perform at the 2010 Festival in the Doris Duke Theatre. In 2012, a special appearance by DTH founder Arthur Mitchell closed each performance of "The Men Dancers: From the Horse's Mouth," created especially for the Pillow's 80th anniversary season. DTH opened the 2013 Festival with sold-out houses in the Ted Shawn Theatre.

Johnson will join Misty Copeland, a soloist with American Ballet Theatre, for a PillowTalk at 4 p.m. on Saturday called "Black Ballerinas: What's New?" Copeland, a member of ABT since 2001, has originated lead roles in several ballets by Alexei Ratmansky. She is the second African-American woman to ever be promoted to soloist at ABT.