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Clark Center for Performing Arts

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Early Clark Center program


Clark Center for the Performing Arts was a community dance center that incubated the careers of many prominent choreographers and companies, while also offering affordable, high-quality instruction in a wide variety of dance forms. Founded in 1959 by a group including Alvin Ailey, Thelma Hill, and Jimmy Truitte, the Clark Center, originally housed in the Westside YWCA, became an important venue for the presentation of new work, through New Choreographers Concerts and the Dance Horizons Program. Courses were offered in ballet, tap, modern dance techniques including Horton and Dunham, and Indian and African dance. The Clark Center thrived as a multi-racial, inclusive community until it closed due to financial pressures in 1989. Its legacy continues to be felt through the work and vision of many artists. About the value of the Clark Center, University of Colorado-Boulder Professor Emerita Toby Hankins wrote, “It was a gathering place—an energetic and vibrant community—where aspiring young dancers had the opportunity to meet and work with a range of professional teachers and artists, and then to see those same artists performing in the major dance venues of New York City. What could be more inspiring?”

Pictured above: This program from 1960 shows the variety of classes and performance presented by the Clark Center, including Dramatic Dance, mime, and ethnic dance.

Anna Sokolow program, 1964



Essay by Takiyah Nur Amin -- Selected resources

Pictured right: Renowned choreographer Anna Sokolow taught at Clark Center during the 1960s. As this program from 1964 illustrates, Clark Center offered in addition to dance instruction other educational programming to help dancers’ professional development.

 Alvin Ailey program



Pictured left: Choreographer Alvin Ailey co-founded Clark Center for the Performing Arts in 1959, shortly after the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s first performance at the 92nd Street Y. This program cover from the early 1960s depicts a performance by Ailey’s company at the Clark Center, which was then housed at the Westside YWCA. 

Pepsi Bethel, 1970s




Pictured right: Pepsi Bethel, an exponent of American jazz dance and Lindy Hop, taught at the Clark Center and performed there with his Authentic Jazz Dance Theater. Photograph by Nathaniel Tilestone, 1970s.

Charles Moore and his wife, Ella Thompson Moore, perform “Fast Agbekor,” 1970s




Pictured left: Charles Moore and his wife, Ella Thompson Moore, perform “Fast Agbekor,” a dance from Ghana, in the late 1970s. Courses in dance of the African diaspora were among the diverse offerings at the Clark Center.