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Ballet Afrique takes audiences back to Harlem Renaissance

At the height of the Harlem Renaissance nearly a century ago, the famed Cotton Club featured some of the era’s best blues and jazz performers. The venue, which featured African-American entertainers, had a whites-only clientele.

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Jamie Wright, center, and Precious Jewel Thompson, right, rehearse a burlesque performance at the Ballet Afrique studio on Monday. (Julia Robinson/ FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Singers, dancers and musicians weren’t allowed to mix with the club’s audience. And their families couldn’t watch loved ones take the stage.

But on Saturday, Austin’s Ballet Afrique imagines a different history inside the 1920s New York City hot spot. What if, despite rising racial tensions at the time, the Cotton Club had, for at least one night, opened its doors to an integrated audience? What if Duke Ellington, one of the venue’s signature artists, had threatened to walk out if it didn’t happen?

READ THE STORY: Ballet Afrique takes audiences back to the Harlem Renaissance

“Echoes of Harlem: A Night at the Cotton Club” examines the cultural complexities of the period while taking audiences back in time. To immerse in the swanky club experience of yesteryear, ticket holders will be asked to dress in roaring 1920s attire and no cellphones will be allowed at the show, which will be 8 p.m. Saturday at the Sterling Event Center in Northeast Austin.

We’re bringing the Austin Arts blog up to date by teasing to recent and still relevant arts stories on other American-Statesman and Austin360 pages. This snip was taken from Nancy Flores story on Ballet Afrique.


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