Hill Dance Academy Theatre is a 501c3 non-profit organization located in the Historic Hill District of Pittsburgh, PA. We were founded in 2005 by Ayisha Morgan-Lee, Ed.D. We train students ages 3 - 18 in various styles of concert dance, fitness and nutrition, and leadership skills.
To provide professional-level training in Black Dance traditions, history, culture, and aesthetics that engages and empowers students to pursue careers in Black dance.
Hill Dance Academy Theatre (HDAT), Home of Ju.B.Lation Spirit Filled Feet, developed out of Ayisha Morgan-Lee’s passion to ensure that children, ages 3 to 18 years old, who wanted to dance, would be able to with HDAT.
After completing her BFA in Dance at Howard University, and while in her first year of graduate school, students and parents, that she had previously taught, asked her to start classes again so that they could dance. In October 2005, in the George House of Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church, in the Hill District, Hill Dance Academy Theatre opened its doors to twenty children ages, 3 to 6. In 2007, armed with her Masters in Arts Management (MAM) degree, and with the support of Pittsburgh City Parks and Recreation, HDAT moved to a new home studio with mirrors and barrés in West Penn Recreation Center. In that same year, HDAT established, Ju.B.Lation: Spirit Filled Feet, a Liturgical, pre-professional dance company that uses dance as the artistic voice to celebrate the Cultural, Spiritual and Sacred traditions of the Black Church experience. Beginning in 2008, HDAT created an eight-week summer intensive and coupled with enrollment growth, classes expanded from a Saturday schedule to include three evenings a week for advanced students. In 2010, HDAT became a 501c3 nonprofit organization and moved to the former St. Benedict the Moor School. On July 23, 2021, HDAT purchased 27,000 sq.ft. from the Diocese of Pittsburgh and today Black dance has a permanent home at 2900 Bedford Avenue in the historic Hill District community.
HDAT’s mission, to provide professional level training in Black Dance traditions, history, culture, and aesthetics that engages and empowers students to pursue careers in Black dance, has remained the core focus and intentionally drives the curriculum, programs, performance and development of faculty and students. A culturally responsive arts ecology and the holistic approach to the arts is designed to engage, serve, and provide opportunities to students who aspire to careers on the concert stage. Students receive training from experts in diverse genres of dance, and disciplines that support dance. Annually, master national dance artists set choreographic works on dancers, and they have exceptional performance opportunities in venues such as the August Wilson African American Cultural Center where they present seasonal performances and HDAT’s annual Spring Dance Concert. Since 2005, HDAT has grown as a leader in dance education; teaching artists have tenure of over eight years. Annually, 5,000 students in public, private, parochial, charter schools and youth-serving organizations participate in 780 classes in the Historic Hill District arts community, home of August Wilson and many great Black jazz and music artists.
Training the Future of Dance
The Academy provides a holistic Dance curriculum for students ages 3-18 while developing, training and challenging student’s physicality, creativity, and performance skills in and out of the studio to prepare them for the rigors of a professional Dance career. All dancers are required to study Ballet and techniques in African, Jazz, Modern, Hip-Hop, Theater, Tap, Capoeira, Liturgical Movement and Dance Composition. Classes are held after school and on weekends.
Throughout the year HDAT offers students opportunities to attend outside performances, conferences and festivals, travel and perform locally and nationally. HDAT focuses on dance teachings and studies steeped in a learning environment that supports the discipline of dance, and the development of the dance body while linking Black cultural traditions and history to excellence in preparation and performance.
Students are placed in the following levels based on age, skill, commitment, and progression...
The Morgan-Lee Arts Centre
Since its founding, HDAT has worked to create equitable places, spaces, activities, and practices for Black and Brown artists. In 2021, HDAT began working to expand their facility with the goal of creating even more opportunities for Black and Brown dance students and dance professionals. Thus, they set out to acquire the former St. Benedict the Moor Parish school campus, rectory, and convent at 2900 Bedford Avenue to accommodate their academy’s six levels of pre-professional dance education.
Beyond obtaining the room needed to teach its growing roster of students, HDAT wants to offer opportunities for expanded community access, community buy-in and creative engagement in Black arts across the Pittsburgh arts ecosystem. HDAT’s “forever home” also hosts a variety of diverse Black and Brown artists who work across many artistic mediums, contributing to a stronger Hill community and more economic opportunities for Black and Brown artists in diverse artistic disciplines.