HarlemStage Celebrates 40 Years ~ 1983-2023 With Anniversary Season




Image courtesy HarlemStage

Celebrating four decades, the joy has been in the journey, as HarlemStage continues its mission to perpetuate and celebrate the unique and diverse artistic legacy of Harlem and the indelible impression it has made on American culture. They are proud to have provided opportunity, commissioning, and support for visionary artists of color, making performances easily accessible to all audiences, and introducing children to the rich diversity, excitement, and inspiration of the performing arts.

Harlem Stage (Artistic Director and CEO Patricia Cruz) announces its 40th Anniversary Season, a celebration of the institution that has, since its founding, provided an indispensable platform to both emerging and established artists of color working in an array of forms. In events throughout the 2023–24 season, Harlem Stage engages artists with whom the organization has, through the decades, cultivated lasting relationships—to in turn champion visionary emerging artists of color they admire, offering a platform and building relationships for the institution’s future.

Patricia Cruz says, “Artists have some of the biggest ears and eyes for exciting new work; they are uniquely positioned to spot, and understand, both the daring and the technical requirements of extraordinary artists at the beginnings of their careers. As emerging artists are lifted up, the whole field is lifted up, and our culture is lifted up and sustained. On the occasion of our 40th Anniversary, we see a process of renewal, facilitated in part by artists acting as guest curators, providing us an opportunity to expand our curatorial vision, and discover the new for ourselves and our audiences.”

Originating as a hub for art and ideas long excluded from and ignored by other cultural institutions, Harlem Stage has in its 40 years become an epicenter for groundbreaking performance and vital thought from around the corner and across the globe, helping sustain and propel forward the monumental and ever-evolving artistic legacy of one of the world’s most culturally influential neighborhoods. In an era of surging censorship of ideas that challenge dominant historical narratives, Harlem Stage continues to offer thoughtful, thought-provoking, and eye-opening work from voices that expand our understanding of the world.”

Can I Get A Witness. Image courtesy HarlemStage.

Cruz adds, “Harlem Stage began in a time of great inequity, resulting in a form of censorship by exclusion of visionary artists of color. Our intent was to level the playing field by supporting the development of their new work in new forms. Artists of color are constantly in a dialogue with their worlds—and Harlem Stage has always sought to be a place where all of our constituents can engage in the kind of transformative discourse that enriches our lives and broadens our horizons.”

Throughout the season, acclaimed artists—three of whom received MacArthur Genius grants during their careers (Vijay Iyer, Bill T. Jones, and Jason Moran)—bring together other creative forces in their orbit for unique events that embody Harlem Stage’s mode of looking back and creating forward. Jason Moran’s guest-curated event, for instance, reimagines a program Cruz first presented at Harlem Stage (then known as Aaron Davis Hall) in 1999 celebrating the music of Duke Ellington—for which Moran was the youngest of six pianists (and is now the only living pianist to have participated). Now, nearly 25 years later—on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of Ellington’s birth—Moran organizes an evening, presented in the round, with legendary jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim alongside extraordinary emerging piano talents in Pianos for Duke Reimagined: Featuring Jason Moran, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Friends, April 26 & 27, 2024. Vijay Iyer enlists musicians Nasheet Waits (drummer), Milena Casado (trumpet player), Mark Shim (saxophonist), and others in celebration of another jazz legend, Andrew Hill (March 1 & 2, 2024).

One of this season’s WaterWorks commissions, Ambrose Akinmusire’s multipart suite Banyan, speaks to the power of  intergenerational connection, using interviews to coalesce community between jazz elders and younger musicians (March 29 & 30, 2024). A special 40th Anniversary project, Craig Harris’ TONGUES OF FIRE (in a harlem state of mind) convenes three generations of Harlem-based artists to explore the community’s evolution from the mid-70s through today (October 20 & 21, 2023).

Holding it Down. Image courtesy HarlemStage.

Choreographer Bill T. Jones has participated in various presentations at Harlem Stage since the 1980s; in 2006, he created the Harlem Stage commission Chapel/Chapter, inaugurating the Harlem Stage Gatehouse with what The New York Times would deem the “most affecting, the most disturbing, the most powerful and the most compassionate” dance from Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. In this season’s E-Moves series, Harlem Stage’s flagship dance program, known for showcasing dance artists across the spectrum of their careers, Jones will return to present a dynamic program of works, including work from an emerging artist he will select (April 19 & 20, 2024). Ronald K. Brown’s company EVIDENCE likewise returns in an evening highlighting an emerging choreographer while revisiting beloved repertory (October 13 & 14, 2023), and nora chipaumire—whose revolutionary dance performance has enlivened Harlem Stage on numerous occasions—presents an immersive performance installation that turns into a dance party, ShebeenDUB, featuring designs from celebrated artists Ari Marcopoulos and Kara Walker, and constructed by Matt Jackson Studio (May 17 & 18, 2024). Camille A. Brown, who has a long and rich history of performing work at Harlem Stage, will present a work of her own and introduce the performances of four of the dancer/choreographers who have contributed to her growing body of creations—Rickey Tripp, Mayte Natalio, Chloe Davis, and Maleek Washington—on June 14 and 15, 2024.

The past becomes a medium for innovative performance in works by Tamar-kali, who presents excerpts from her in-development opera Black Damask, featuring a libretto by Harlem Stage Associate Artistic Director and Curator-in-Residence Carl Hancock Rux, about William Dorsey Swann, the activist who was the first person to call himself a “queen of drag” (May 3 & 4, 2024); george emilio sanchez, who collaborates with visual artist Patty Ortiz on In the Court of the Conqueror, a solo performance unpacking 200-year-old U.S. Supreme Court Rulings that have diminished the Tribal Sovereignty of Native Nations (November 3, 2023); and Tony-winning musician and composer Stew’s irreverent musical tribute to radical poet and playwright Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones’ influences within his own art and life, HIGH SUBSTITUTE FOR THE DREAD LECTURER: Baraka Jones in Dub (March 22 & 23, 2024).

Harlem Stage also returns with its beloved music series, Uptown Nights, to present a dynamic set of artists across a wide range of genres throughout the anniversary year. From September to December 2023, the institution presents the Uptown Nights Latinx Music Series, an exciting lineup that celebrates music from the Latinx diaspora, including Cuban-born MacArthur Fellow drummer, composer, and bandleader, Dafnis Prieto, with songs from his recent Cantar album (October 27, 2023). As part of Uptown Nights, Harlem Stage will also collaborate with Harlem-based Sugar Hill Salon—one of the first chamber music series and artistic collectives that centers on black and brown woodwind artistry in classical music—and Concert Artists Guild —which has, since 1951, launched the careers of hundreds of emerging classical artists and ensembles—to curate an evening of chamber music at the Gatehouse, featuring works by living composers of color, performed by musicians from each organization’s ranks. The full Uptown Nights lineup will be announced in September.

Notes of a Native Song. Image courtesy HarlemStage.

The landmark 40th anniversary season includes:

Presentations from Harlem Stage’s Signature Commissioning Program, WaterWorks:  

  • Ambrose Akinmusire’s Multipart Suite Banyan, Bridging Knowledge Between Jazz Elders and Younger Musicians, March 29 & 30, 2024

  • Excerpts from Tamar-kali’s Work-in-Progress Opera, Black Damask, on William Dorsey Swann, the First Person Known to Dub Himself a “Queen of Drag,” with Book and Libretto by Carl Hancock Rux, May 3 & 4, 2024

  • WaterWorks Emerging Artists Showcase Featuring Shantelle Courvoisier Jackson, Hannah Lemmons, Bobby Morgan, Mary Prescott, and Kalí Rodríguez-Peña, December 9, 2023

Harlem Stage’s Signature Dance Series, E-Moves, This Year Featuring Artists Who Have Been Critical to the Institution’s Legacy Inviting Emerging Dance Artists Into the Harlem Stage Community and Into its Future: 

  • Camille A. Brown, Presenting an Evening of Repertoire Celebrating the Theme BLACK JOY, Featuring a Work of Her Own Alongside Works by Her Associate Choreographers in the Theater and Commercial World—Rickey Tripp, Mayte Natalio, Chloe Davis, and Maleek Washington, June 14 & 15, 2024

  • Ronald K. Brown, Presenting Works Featuring His Company, EVIDENCE, Alongside Work by an Emerging Choreographer Selected by Brown, October 13 & 14, 2023

  • Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Returning with a Dynamic Program that Revisits His Groundbreaking Collaboration with Toni Morrison and Max Roach, and Also Featuring an Emerging Artist Selected by Jones, April 19 & 20, 2024

  • nora chipaumire’s ShebeenDUB, Featuring Three Dancers and a Dub DJ Staged on a Monumental Sound Installation, soundshitsystem, Designed by Ari Marcopoulos and Kara Walker, and constructed by Matt Jackson Studio, May 17 & 18, 2024

Guest-Curated Events Bringing Artists Together in Honor of Influential Musicians: 

  • Eternal Spirit: Vijay Iyer and Friends Celebrate the Music of Andrew Hill, Devoted to the Legendary Composer and Pianist, Guest Curated by Iyer, March 1 & 2, 2024

  • Pianos for Duke Reimagined: Featuring Jason Moran, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Friends, Guest Curated by Moran and Reimagining a Program First Presented at Harlem Stage in 1999, April 26 & 27, 2024

Special 40th Anniversary Projects: 

  • Craig Harris’ TONGUES OF FIRE (in a harlem state of mind), a Multidisciplinary Concert with Three Generations of Harlem-Based Artists Tracing the Harlem Community from the Mid-Seventies to the Present Day, October 20 & 21, 2023

  • george emilio sanchez’s In the Court of the Conqueror, a Solo Performance Made in Collaboration with Visual Artist Patty Ortiz, Examining How the U.S. Constitution Camouflages the Violent Intentions of Settler Colonialism, Nov. 3, 2023

  • Stew’s HIGH SUBSTITUTE FOR THE DREAD LECTURER: Baraka Jones in Dub, with the Tony-Winning Musician and Composer Working Through Amiri Baraka’s/LeRoi Jones’ Twin Influences on His Life and Art, March 22 & 23, 2024

Harlem Stage’s Beloved Uptown Nights Music Series: 

  • Uptown Nights Latinx Music Series, Featuring Artists and Music from the Latinx Diaspora, Including Cuban-born MacArthur Fellow Drummer, Composer, and Bandleader Dafnis Prieto, October 27, 2023

  • An Evening of Chamber Music, Co-Presented by Harlem Stage, Sugar Hill Salon, and Concert Artists Guild, Featuring Works by Living Composers of Color, Performed by Musicians from Each Organization’s Ranks, Date TBA

Check out the Landmark 40th Anniversary Season Here

Harlem Stage is located at 150 Convent Avenue, NYC. Follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.