Dance Theatre of Harlem

gradient gray graphic with pictures of Penny and Amy Julia attending a ballet performance by the Dance Theatre of HarlemIt was quite a gift to watch the Harlem Dance Theatre with Penny on Thursday. 

First of all, the dancing itself was beautiful and powerful and fun and interesting.

But there was also Penny’s preparation. She got dressed up in a sparkly dress and picked out an outfit for me and anticipated what time I would need to pick her up from her own dance class in order to get there on time and made sure I was clear that candy during intermission is an important part of attending a show.

And then there was her response. Penny started taking ballet lessons when she was three. She now spends 10-12 hours a week in a variety of classes: ballet, pointe, rep, jazz, and modern. She knows more than I do about what it takes for the dancers to do what they are doing on stage. She sat as upright as I’ve ever seen her through the entire show, the definition of “rapt with attention.” She loved the Vivaldi number when they were dressed in flowy orange skirts and performing “complex moves” (in her words). And she loved the women en pointe and men dancing to James Brown and Aretha Franklin at the end. 

And then there was the unexpected experience of sitting amidst a predominantly Black audience and recognizing that I usually sit in very white spaces, spaces that communicate welcome to people like me. I was grateful to be welcomed into a more diverse space.

So here’s a plug for seeking out performances and spaces that invite you into wonder, beauty, and delight alongside people you love. 


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Hi, I’m Amy Julia.

I write about faith, family, disability, and privilege.

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