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Press Release  
Release Date: Monday, April 7, 2014 11:11 AM
Howard University Logo
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact:
Rachel Mann
Communications Specialist
202.238.2631    
rachel.mann@howard.edu
     
http://www.howard.edu/newsroom/
     

Eddie Burke
National Museum of African Art
(202) 633-4660
burkee@si.edu
Modern Dance Ballet
Hamdan: Through the Gate of Tears Premiers at Howard University

Dance commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art
 

Howard University’s Department of Theatre Arts will present the world premier of modern ballet Hamdan: Through the Gate of Tears to close out its 2013-14 season on April 11-12 at Cramton Auditorium (2455 6th Street, NW) at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are free and available to the general public with RSVP.  Tickets can also be picked up on Howard University’s campus at the Cramton Auditorium and the Ira Aldridge Theatre beginning March 31.

The event is part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art’s multiyear series of programing, Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa, made possible by a $1.8 Million gift by the Sultanate of Oman. The dance commissioned by the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art features choreography by Ray Mercer, principal dancer for Broadway's The Lion King (NYC).

“It is an honor and a privilege to receive this opportunity from the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art to create and premier this historic dance production at Howard University, which reflects the genius of Ray Mercer,” said Denise Saunders Thompson, theatre manager at Howard University’s Depart of Theatre Arts.  

“We at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art are truly excited and honored during our 50th anniversary year to be part of this historic collaboration with Howard University that will reflect the exceptional story between Oman and East Africa,” said Nicole Shivers, education specialist for Performing and Cultural Arts at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and project lead of Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa. 

The ballet kicks off the multiyear series of programming, Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa, which will highlight the cross-cultural connections of East and North Africa with those found in the Middle East.  It will showcase the evolution of Omani arts and cultures, the beauty of the arts in Oman and its connections to the East African Coast.

Howard University’s Department of Theatre Arts was awarded $275,000 as a dance commission by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art as part of a multiyear series of programming, Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa.  The dance commission features Howard University students, faculty and professional dancers, including alumni Howard University dance majors, from the Washington area.

Hamdan: Through the Gate of Tears is a modern ballet celebrating one man's journey from his homeland of Oman to East Africa.  Oman, which lies on the southeast coastline of the Arabian Peninsula, is a land filled with Wadi's deserts, beaches, and mountains. Using modern dance and contemporary Afro-Arabian music, Hamdan tells the story of his momentous decision to leave his country and set sail aboard a dhow headed to Zanzibar, for a better life.  This ballet presents modern dance styles as it explores the folktale of Hamdan's journey, steeped in the cultural traditions of Oman and East Africa. Mercer’s choreography brings this impassioned tale to life.

Ray Mercer
Mercer is a native of Omaha, NE.  He is currently in the Broadway cast of The Lion King in New York. Mercer started his dance training at age 17, studying at the University of New Orleans and in Chicago and New York.  He has danced with Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Chicago and the Boston Ballet (guest artist.)  He has worked with Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, Kevin “Iega” Jeff, George Faison, Louis Johnson and Garth Fagan.  Mercer was recently acknowledged in The New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, and Movmnt Magazine for his choreography.  For more information on Ray Mercer, visit raymercerdance.com.
                       
About Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa
Last November, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art announced that the Sultanate of Oman will give $1.8 million to support a series of programs celebrating Omani and East African arts and culture.  This is the largest donation to the museum to date. This partnership has been made possible by the Sultan of Qaboos Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.  This year, the museum launched a multiyear series of programming, Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa, which highlights the cross-cultural connections of East and North Africa with those found in the Middle East.  It will showcase the evolution of Omani arts and cultures, the beauty of the arts in Oman and its connections to the East African Coast. For more information about Connecting the Gems, visit here.

About the National Museum of African Art
The National Museum of African Art is the nation’s premier museum dedicated exclusively to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of Africa’s traditional and contemporary arts. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25.)  Admission is free.  The museum is located at 950 Independence Ave., S.W., near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the National Museum of African Art’s website. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.
For more information on the National Museum of African Art and the 50th anniversary celebration, visit here.


ABOUT HOWARD

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, two Truman Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, 30 Fulbright Scholars and 11 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University's Web site at www.howard.edu.


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