The New York-based dance institution Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) performed in Albany to a sold out audience Tuesday night.
"It's more than just a dance company: It's a social statement to be a part of this group, and I've taken that responsibility in this group and I'm very proud to wear that," says dancer Samuel Wilson.
The dancers call their selections "eclectic:" A variety of pieces ranging from classical to contemporary. They say their small group creates a performance made for 80 dancers. Their shows are made from more than moves, but messages as well.
"The inspiration can come from the dancers, it can come from the choreographer's life experiences some message they want to get across and some of the pieces even come from the music," says Wilson.
The Albany performance by the dance institution established shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. fell upon the first day of Black History Month.
"The group is still trying to continue to carry on his message. We are still performing in small communities, spreading the word, spreading arts and also showing dance as a path for people to follow," says Wilson.
Performers in the Dance Theatre of Harlem like Wilson begged to have their opportunity.
"When I first heard of them I really just wanted to get to New York, and what kept me around was the people: I met a lot of great friends, I met my wife there and it's the dancing we get to do," he says.
His wife, Alexandra Jacob-Wilson, also a dancer with DTH, has been dancing with the company since June 2005 and says she continues to learn.
"Everyone is continuously learning. There's no real end to it, I think just in general in life: You keep learning, trying to soak up as much as you can every day artistically," she says. "It's so amazing because you have all of these people around you, and you can physically see them thinking about it and putting it in their bodies and it's so cool!"
When the lights come on the dances seem effortless, but behind the scenes is a different story.
"We as dancers tend to be really rough on ourselves," says Jacob-Wilson. "We have this career where everything revolves around what we're doing physically and what we look like. When you get all these critiques it's like 'How do I view myself?'"
Dancers say critiques and rehearsals can be demanding, but it helps them continue to grow during the numerous years they're with the company.
Beyond the music and the moves, the group wants to create inspiration in a bigger picture.
"It's really just showing the way that there is no color boundary on stage: We're all the same, we're all just people, we're all dancers. Maybe some people will see a dancer on stage and be like 'Oh that could be me!'" says Wilson.
The Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded in 1969 shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One of the founders, Arthur Mitchell, started the school to offer children â" especially in Harlem â" an opportunity to learn about the arts and dance. Classes were taught in a garage on a street in Harlem.
Since then, the multi-cultural dance group became world renown, providing opportunities for creative expression and innovation.
If you attended Tuesday's performance, how did you like it? What dance stood out to you the most?