Harlem Stage is unique among performing arts institutions in its approach to supporting the work of artist's of color. We just don't present work from a menu of outside offerings, we help deserving young artists like Vijay Iyer, Mike Ladd, Maurice Decaul and Lynn Hill create and draw attention to their work. Work that has meaning for all of us. The Commissioning Circle is a critically important means to help Harlem Stage make this happen. The Commissioning Circle is comprised of an inner core of Harlem Stage supporters. People that each year go deeper in their embrace of the performing arts and a next generation of artists that inspire us with a heightened sensibility to their art forms.

Harlem Stage - Commissioning Artists

Commissioning Artists

This Fall We’re Proud to Commission Four Extraordinary Artists:

Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd have shared with the Harlem Stage family their extraordinary artistry and thinking for over three years. They are committed and engaged citizens of the world unafraid to dig deep and speak with passion. Holding It Down: the Veterans’ Dreams Project is their third collaboration, following the acclaimed In What Language (2003) and Still Life with Commentator (2006).

Kyle Abraham, a 2010 Bessie Award-winning choreographer, has a long history with Harlem Stage having been awarded some of his first commissioning grants from our Fund for New Work as well as being featured in our annual E-Moves showcase of promising young choreographers. Abraham is the recipient of the 2012 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award and a 2010 Princess Grace Award for Choreography, to name but a few. His choreography has been presented throughout the United States and abroad.

Robert Glasper first graced our stage as part of the 2010 Revive Music Group’s Tribute to Roy Ayers. With five critically acclaimed albums under his belt, the Grammy nominated Glasper has proven to be a formidable force in the field with no signs of stopping. It is with great pleasure that we provide him with a platform to present a conceptual project Songs in the Key of Life, honoring the musical legacy of Stevie Wonder.

Harlem Stage - Premiering Works

Fall 2012 Premiering Works

We’re Proud to Premiere Their Extraordinary Work

Holding It Down: the Veterans’ Dreams Project

September 19-22, 7:30PM / Harlem Stage Gatehouse / $30 General / $24 Members September 19th opening night: $60 ($30 underwrites a ticket for a veteran). For veteran tickets, please contact the box office.

Commissioned and produced in association with Multiplicity Music, LLC Holding It Down was created by composer/pianist Vijay Iyer, and poet Mike Ladd with Iraq Marine veteran Maurice Decaul and directed by Patricia McGregor. It is a thought-provoking, sometimes harrowing, and ultimately exhilarating combination of music, poetry and song, woven from the actual dreams of young American veterans of color of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The work explores veterans’ internal battle with the psychological remnants of war, and their struggles to achieve dignity in an atmosphere of public indifference and widespread disillusionment.

Sleep Song

Makes its US premiere at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, from its World Premiere in Paris
November 30 & December 1, 7:30PM / Harlem Stage Gatehouse / $30 General / $24 Members

Created as a response to Holding It Down and directed by Mike Ladd, Sleep Song contemplates the impact of the soldiers and their missions on the lives of civilians in Iraq. This exemplary work made its World Premiere in France last Fall, produced by the Foundation Royaumont in Asniéres-sur-Oise. Sleep Song presents artists and musicians with roots in Iraq, France as well as America. It provides an experience you won’t forget.


A stunning new work by visionary choreographer, Kyle Abraham
Thurs.-Sat., November 1-3, 2012 / Harlem Stage Gatehouse / $30 General / $24 Members

Abraham’s Pavement takes its main inspiration from director John Singleton’s groundbreaking film, Boyz in the Hood. This dance work is layered with the sounds of an urban landscape, examining the gains and losses in the rebuilding of two historically black Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Kyle also pulls inspiration from W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903, and Jaroussky’s performance of Handel’s Carestini.

Robert Glasper: Songs in the Key of Life

December 13 & 14, 7:30PM & 10:00PM / Harlem Stage Gatehouse / $45 General / $36 Members / $25 Bench Seating / $20 Bench Seating Members

Firmly planted in the worlds of jazz, hip-hop and R&B, Grammy-nominated Glasper brings together an all-star cast dedicated to Stevie Wonder’s timeless body of work. Performances include new arrangements and the premiere of new compositions written by Glasper, and inspired by Stevie Wonder. Songs in the Key of Life is presented as part of our Uptown Nights Series, so bring along your dancing shoes.

Harlem Stage - Makandal


After five years in development, Makandal makes its world premiere at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, June 2013.

We are so proud to have taken part in the creation of this poignant story and its operatic presentation. It’s been a remarkable journey viewed through the lens of Haiti’s rich and mystical history and its significance to the world, through its continuing struggle and strength.

Moving between three universes – historic, contemporary and mythic, Makandal, inspired by Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of this World, and Edouard DuvalCarrié’s expansive imagery integrates two stories:

  • The first, about Francois Makandal, an 18th century Haitian revolutionary who led a failed slave revolt, but achieved the status of mythic hero.
  • The second about a group of 21st century Haitian, Cuban and Dominican immigrants embarking upon a dangerous boat ride to an unnamed shore where they seek an illusive “freedom;” however, Makandal, in its reach is about all people who have yet to fully realize emancipation. It is a story that is timeless and universal.

Conceived and written by multi-disciplinary writer Carl Hancock Rux, with composer Yosvany Terry, visual artist Edouard Duval-Carrié, and director Lars Jan, this contemporary opera, commissioned and produced by Harlem Stage will be the culminating presentation of our 30th anniversary season with a 3-week run in June 2013.