Dance Theatre of Harlem, 1976
Dance Theatre of Harlem, 1976
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Dance Theatre of Harlem, 1976

Denis Thorpe


In 1968, at the height of the civil rights movement, Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York. Six years later, they toured Britain for the second time, which is where Guardian photographer Denis Thorpe captured them rehearsing at Manchester’s Opera House in the summer of 1976. Thorpe, who knew the dancers by reputation, recalls how he knew he wanted to freeze the moment when all the dancers were off the ground. He developed the resulting under-exposed picture for far longer than usual, which gave it its high-contrast graphic quality. “I was completely blown away by their energy and physical perfection,” he says. “You can see how hard they’re working.”                         Words: Hannah Booth


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