As the nation recovers from recent tragedies, out dancer Daniel Harder of the Alvin Ailey company says people find hope in the art of dance


A RETURN TO DANCE ABOUT | For the first time in 30 years, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to Dallas, with out dancer Daniel Harder, right, performing the lead in ‘Home.’

RICH LOPEZ  | Contributing Writer

The American people have been tested as disaster plagued April: Flooding weather in the Midwest, the devastating explosion in West, the bombing at the Boston Marathon. The country may have breathed a slight sigh of relief with the capture of the terrorists, but still goes the process of healing and rebuilding.

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.41.41 AMBut for Daniel Harder, a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, these hardships give a reason more than ever to embrace the arts.

“Our biggest goal is to uplift and to be a mirror to the audience,” Harder says. “Our post-Boston performances have left us feeling the energy and joy from the audience. That joy has been tangible and we become one with them, so to speak.”

It is certainly a moment for Dallas audiences to rejoice. The performance at the Winspear next week marks the company’s first time performing in town in 30 years.

Harder credits the influence and inspiration of the company founder with his encouragement to go out and experience life and be in tune with what’s going on around them and then take that to the stage.

With that, the 25-year-old dancer takes to heart the notion of reflecting the audience’s emotions while at the same time reviving broken spirits and highlighting the better nature of us all.

“I don’t want to sound cliché, but I agree with the mantra that art imitates life,” he says. “Because we get so much joy in dancing, we’re blessed to do it and perform it. And the passion and warmth from the audience just reminds me that there is something to be said for the human spirit.”

None of that is lost on TITAS executive director Charles Santos, who has programmed AAADT to this season’s offerings. But clearly, he is excited to be part of the company’s re-appearance in Dallas after three decades.

“One of the great things about Ailey is that they are highly entertaining,” Santos says. “They are crazy great dancers, and the most diverse and exciting repertoire out there. There’s something for everyone at an Ailey performance. This truly is the must-see performance of our year.”

As an openly gay black man, Harder has been comfortable with himself since childhood, but while training with the Ailey school, instruction and life lessons were affirming in encouragement to be true to self. In the arts, it’s no surprise that being gay is hardly an issue, but with Ailey, Harder found something deeper.

“Even under our new director Robert Battle, we’re pushed to be ourselves and wherever you are at that point in the journey of your life, we have to bring to the stage,” Harder says. “We celebrate the African-American experience, the gay experience, the straight experience. It all is a privilege.”

What’s taken so long for the company to bring that mission back to Big D? As Harder puts it, Dallas has just had to find its way back into the schedule. And the resurgence of the Arts District was a big help in getting them here.

“It’s all based on timing, and so every year we have our routine stops while others get filled in to different spots,” he explains. “But we’re excited about Dallas because we have several people from Texas and I have family and friends there. A lot of times, it just depends on if there’s a theater large enough — we have a big crew.”

“For me, the return of Ailey to Dallas only solidifies the international profile that Dallas now has,” Santos adds. “Today, it is all about the quality we bring onto these beautiful stages here in the Arts District [including] the stunning Winspear Opera House. They demand excellence; Ailey is that excellence. It means Dallas has truly taken its place as a cultural destination on the international playing field, and the international arts community has taken notice.”

Harder details the company will perform “great repertory pieces,” but most importantly, the one that enthusiasts are most anticipating.

“We have exciting works to perform, but yes, we will be performing Mr. Ailey’s masterpiece, Revelations,” he says. “And we’re so looking to that moment we have with Dallas that shares the joy and hurt and triumphs we’re all feeling right now.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 26, 2013.