6 ways to celebrate Black excellence as we approach Juneteenth

The Kennedy Center
4 min readJun 16, 2022

Join us for dance, film, music, and conversation centering the processes & achievements of Black creators.

Forward March for Freedom: Music to Dance

Jun. 16, 2022 at 1 p.m. | 📍 The REACH | FREE, registration required

Led by dancer and choreographer Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of musical legend Duke Ellington, this dance demonstration highlights the moves of the time set to James Reese Europe’s syncopated rhythms. Joined by her teaching partners Michael Choi and Vanda Polakova, Ellington will discuss and demonstrate the dances made popular by the 369th Regimental Infantry Band’s music, including a signature fox trot to Europe’s wildly popular rendition of I’m Just Wild About Harry. Facilitated by community partners The 369th Experience.

Outdoor Film: Amazing Grace

Jun. 16, 2022 at Dusk | 📍 REACH Lawn | FREE, no tickets required

In 1972, after a series of 11 consecutive hits, Aretha Franklin recorded Amazing Grace, the most successful gospel album of all time, at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. The behind-the-scenes documentary about the recording of this best-selling album finally sees the light of day more than four decades after the original footage was shot.

Reframing the Narrative: Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ballethnic Dance Company, and Collage Dance Collective

Jun. 14–19, 2022 | 📍 Kennedy Center Opera House | Tickets from $29

In the spirit of Sankofa, in order to understand our present and ensure our future, we must know our past.

Through Reframing the Narrative, a week-long celebration featuring performances on the Opera House stage, we recognize that Black ballet dancers have been pillars of the field for decades. We acknowledge that the artistry and leadership of Black ballet dancers has shaped ballet throughout the United States and across the globe. The history of Black dancers in ballet is rich — but many voices and many stories have remained untold and unheard. It’s time to reframe the narrative.

The week features multiple dynamic programs curated by Theresa Ruth Howard, founder of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, and Denise Saunders Thompson, president and CEO of The International Association of Blacks in Dance. Performances bring together Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ballethnic Dance Company, and Collage Dance Collective along with other Black-identifying ballet dancers from across the United States to highlight the incredible work these pillar companies are doing in ballet today.

Together we consider what ballet could look like when we gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential moving forward. Learn more about the programs.

Let’s Talk Dance: A Look Behind the Narrative

Jun. 16, 2022 at 6 p.m. | 📍 Justice Forum | Tickets $15

Artistic Directors from Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ballethnic Dance Company, and Collage Dance Collective, and choreographer Donald Byrd discuss their participation in Reframing the Narrative, a week-long celebration of Black ballet artists.

How do the mission and vision of each of these participating companies relate to the era in which their organizations were founded? How does geography and regionality define their artistic trajectories? And what does participating in this project, Reframing the Narrative, mean for each organization, if anything?

Let’s Talk Dance: A Curators’ Conversation

Jun. 18, 2022 at 5 p.m. | 📍 Justice Forum | Tickets $15

Theresa Ruth Howard & Denise Saunders Thompson

Part of Reframing the Narrative, a week-long celebration of Black ballet artists, the curatorial team will discuss the origins of the idea for this celebration and the reasons why this work has been an urgent undertaking.

Together, they will reflect on the path to get to this week of performances, and share takeaways and future goals for the continuation of the work. Denise Saunders Thompson, the President & CEO of the International Association of Blacks in Dance and Theresa Ruth Howard, the founder of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet will be in conversation, moderated by Jane (Rabinovitz) Raleigh, the Director of Dance Programming at the Kennedy Center.

The 369th Experience: Continuing the Legacy

Jun. 18, 2022 6 p.m. | 📍 Millennium Stage South | FREE, reservations recommended

The 369th Experience: Continuing the Legacy is an historic series of global music programs designed to acknowledge, educate, and preserve the legacy of The 369th U.S. Infantry regiment band and soldiers. The 369th Experience re-creates the original band with African American and Puerto Rican music students from HBCUs and other universities across the country. Tune in for the live stream on Facebook and YouTube.