Arts organizations often struggle to find their footing when long-standing artistic leadership departs. Patrons often get nervous about the direction of new leadership and doubt can cloud the positive nature of change. Such is definitely not the case for Dance Theatre of Harlem, where very strategic and thoughtful actions have made room for Founder Arthur Mitchell’s artistic successor Virginia Johnson to hand over creative reigns to her longtime collaborator Robert Garland.
Dance Theatre of Harlem Artistic Director Virginia Johnson pictured solo (L), and posing with former Company Artist Anthony Santos and Company Artist Amanda Smith (R).
Johnson, a founding member of the DTH company was invited by Arthur Mitchell to step into the artistic directorship in 2010. Considered one of the finest ballerinas of her time, she attributes her refined skills to the guidance and expectations received from Mitchell. Undoubtedly, Mitchell knew that the company would find excellent leadership in Virginia Johnson, who has often been credited for saving Dance Theatre of Harlem.
In November of 2022, Dance Theatre of Harlem made its final appearance in Seattle under Johnson's artistic leadership. DoubleXposure podcast co-host Marcie Sillman and I had the honor and pleasure of sitting down with Johnson to learn more about the art and soul of Dance Theatre of Harlem. We share the interview as her last words to us as DTH Artistic Director.