Reflecting on 15 Years of Growth at Hill Dance Academy Theatre

Monday, 13 July 2020 12:23 PM Written by 

At just twenty-one years old, Ayisha Morgan-Lee became founder, CEO, and artistic director of Hill Dance Academy Theatre (HDAT). Fifteen years later, HDAT has touched thousands of students through technical dance training and repertory, liturgical movement, composition, summer intensives, and teacher training. HDAT’s mission is to develop and train dancers in Black dance traditions, expand knowledge and contributions of Black dance traditions, and create emerging dance artists who will sustain dance in the Black community. 

Ayisha Morgan-Lee, Ph.D., leads HDAT while serving on the board of The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), teaching at The Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, and has recently earned her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh Out of School Learning Program. While her decorated career has spanned the globe she remains a steadfast community leader in Pittsburgh and the Hill District, where she resides.

HDAT Dance Performance at Gateway Medical Center Wellness Fair. Photo by E.A. Smith.
Ayisha Morgan-Lee leads a HDAT dance performance at Gateway Medical Center Wellness Fair. Photo by E.A. Smith.

How would you describe Hill Dance Academy Theatre (HDAT) to those that might be unfamiliar? What is something you wish more people knew about HDAT?

Hill Dance Academy Theatre, commonly called HDAT, is an arts educational dance program designed to develop and train Black students for careers in dance on the concert stage. I wish more people knew and understood how challenging, demanding, and costly it is for students to pursue dance as a career and what it takes for HDAT to provide the artistic depth required, on all levels, for excellence in teaching, performance, student development, and organizational growth.

This year is the 15th anniversary of HDAT! Congratulations! We understand you may be celebrating a little differently than you have planned. What are some of the landmark achievements or favorite stories from the company in its 15 years of existence?

The main landmark achievement is that, by God's grace and the support of staff, students, parents, friends, and contributors, we made it to fifteen years. HDAT has touched thousands of students in studio classes, through our Kuumba residency and community programs. We have had an impact on audiences in our local community and audiences nationally. Over 15 years, we have developed an excellent product. 

HDAT students and alums have and are pursuing college careers in dance, musical theatre, business, and science. Next May, we will graduate two students, Erika Durden and Bria Wright, who started their dance studies with HDAT at the age of three. Erika, as a rising senior, auditioned, applied, and has been accepted with a scholarship to The American Musical and Dramatic Academy College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Los Angeles, California. Erika and Bria epitomize 15 years of dance excellence and I am so proud of them. They are HDAT. 

Are your students performing virtually right now? Is anything coming up in the near future?

HDAT started virtual classes in March during the spring season, and we continued virtual classes into the six-week summer season. The near future is open as we explore what the fall season may look like in the midst of the continuing pandemic. Our annual summer showcase is on Saturday, August 1. Check our website for more information.

HDAT performs at the Governors Awards for the Arts Pre-Celebration outside of the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in 2019. Photo by E.A. Smith.
HDAT performs at the Governors Awards for the Arts Pre-Celebration outside of the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in 2019. Photo by E.A. Smith.

Would you like to share anything about how recent events might have changed or highlighted HDAT’s relationship with Pittsburgh?

The pandemic disrupted the events planned for the Fifteenth Anniversary celebration. When we closed in March, Ronald K. Brown, CEO and Artistic Director of Evidence Company in Brooklyn, NY, was setting his choreographic work on students for the 7th Annual Spring Dance Concert. He was also scheduled to set a piece on dancers from the greater Pittsburgh community. It is my hope that Mr. Brown will return for the 2021 Spring Dance Concert and in 2021 we will hold the celebration of HDAT's 15 years of dance in Pittsburgh.

How can patrons support HDAT during and after quarantine?

For those who are new to our story, we invite you to visit our website, and friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and watch us dance on YouTube.

 

We invite you to follow us on social media and when we return, please come out and support our 2021 Spring concert and anniversary celebrations and please know that donations are always welcomed on our website.

At just twenty-one years old, Ayisha Morgan-Lee became founder, CEO, and artistic director of Hill Dance Academy Theatre (HDAT). Fifteen years later, HDAT has touched thousands of students through technical dance training and repertory, liturgical movement, composition, summer intensives, and teacher training. HDAT’s mission is to develop and train dancers in Black dance traditions, expand knowledge and contributions of Black dance traditions, and create emerging dance artists who will sustain dance in the Black community. 

Ayisha Morgan-Lee, Ph.D., leads HDAT while serving on the board of The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), teaching at The Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, and has recently earned her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh Out of School Learning Program. While her decorated career has spanned the globe she remains a steadfast community leader in Pittsburgh and the Hill District, where she resides.

How would you describe Hill Dance Academy Theatre (HDAT) to those that might be unfamiliar? What is something you wish more people knew about HDAT?

Hill Dance Academy Theatre, commonly called HDAT, is an arts educational dance program designed to develop and train Black students for careers in dance on the concert stage. I wish more people knew and understood how challenging, demanding, and costly it is for students to pursue dance as a career and what it takes for HDAT to provide the artistic depth required, on all levels, for excellence in teaching, performance, student development, and organizational growth.

This year is the 15th anniversary of HDAT! Congratulations! We understand you may be   celebrating a little differently than you have planned. What are some of the landmark   achievements or favorite stories from the company in its 15 years of existence?

The main landmark achievement is that, by God's grace and the support of staff, students, parents, friends, and contributors, we made it to fifteen years. HDAT has touched thousands of students in studio classes, through our Kuumba residency and community programs. We have had an impact on audiences in our local community and audiences nationally. Over 15 years, we have developed an excellent product. 

HDAT students and alums have and are pursuing college careers in dance, musical theatre, business, and science. Next May, we will graduate two students, Erika Durden and Bria Wright, who started their dance studies with HDAT at the age of three. Erika, as a rising senior, auditioned, applied, and has been accepted with a scholarship to The American Musical and Dramatic Academy College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Los Angeles, California. Erika and Bria epitomize 15 years of dance excellence and I am so proud of them. They are HDAT. 

Are your students performing virtually right now? Is anything coming up in the near future?

HDAT started virtual classes in March during the spring season, and we continued virtual classes into the six-week summer season. The near future is open as we explore what the fall season may look like in the midst of the continuing pandemic. Our annual summer showcase is on Saturday, August 1. Check our website for more information.

Would you like to share anything about how recent events might have changed or highlighted HDAT’s relationship with Pittsburgh?

The pandemic disrupted the events planned for the Fifteenth Anniversary celebration. When we closed in March, Ronald K. Brown, CEO and Artistic Director of Evidence Company in Brooklyn,   NY, was setting his choreographic work on students for the 7th Annual Spring Dance Concert. He was also scheduled to set a piece on dancers from the greater Pittsburgh community. It is my hope that Mr. Brown will return for the 2021 Spring Dance Concert and in 2021 we will hold the celebration of HDAT's 15 years of dance in Pittsburgh.

How can patrons support HDAT during and after quarantine?

For those who are new to our story, we invite you to visit our website, and friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and watch us dance on YouTube.

We invite you to follow us on social media and when we return, please come out and support our 2021 Spring concert and anniversary celebrations and please know that donations are always welcomed on our website.

 

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