Dallas Black Dance Theatre may be the city’s longest-established dance troupe, but it’s only now getting its second leader. April Berry, a former principal dancer with Alvin Ailey, will be taking over the reins as artistic director. DBDT’s founder Ann Williams, 76, stepped down in May after 37 years leading the company.
Berry is especially trained in the choreography and techniques of American dance pioneer Katherine Dunham, who’s been called the matriarch of black dance. In the ’30s through ’50s, Dunham revolutionized American dance by exploring the roots of African-American dance. She ran the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, the only self-supporting black dance company in the country at the time. Berry studied with Dunham, has performed some of her signature works in an evening of Dunham’s choreography presented by the Ailey company (see image outfront) and Berry is one of only a handful of Dunham ‘masters,’ certified to teach the ‘Dunham technique.’
As a performer, Berry has danced all over the world with the Ailey company, originating roles in several Ailey works, including his last ballet, Opus McShann. She has also danced works by Lester Horton, Jerome Robbins, Bill T. Jones, Lar Lubovitch and Donald McKayle. As a choreographer, she contributed to Debby Allen’s The Chocolate Nutcracker and Richard Adler’s musical Kwamina.
A native New Yorker, Berry has been a teacher and an artist-in-residence at several universities — including Ohio State and Denison University — and has taught Dunham workshops around the country. Most recently, she has been on the dance faculty at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
Berry will begin full-time with the DBDT Sept. 2. Williams will remain actively involved with DBDT to help with the transition.