Hill Dance Academy Theatre's History
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 want to dance, would be able to with HDAT. Upon completing her BFA degree in Dance at Howard University, in October 2005, 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. How? and where? were the key questions. Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church, in the Hill District, opened its doors, to her request to hold dance classes for 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 had a new home with mirrors and barrés in West Penn Recreation Center. In 2007, 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 all day Saturday to include three evenings a week for advanced students. In April 2010, HDAT became a 501c3 nonprofit organization and moved into its current location at St. Benedict the Moor Center.
Throughout its growth, the mission to develop and train dancers in Black Dance Traditions, expand Black Dance knowledge and contributions, and create emerging artists who will sustain Black Dance Traditions in the Black Community and beyond has remained the central core focus that drives the curriculum, programs, performances, professional development of teaching artists and student development. HDAT’s culturally responsive arts ecology and its holistic approach to the arts has engaged, served and provided opportunities to students who aspire careers on the concert stage.
HDAT students receive training from teaching artists who are professional experts in diverse genres of dance, and professions that support dance. Master guest dance artists from companies throughout the nation annually set pieces on dancers. HDAT dancers have exceptional performance opportunities throughout the Pittsburgh area such as the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, and the University of Pittsburgh where they present seasonal performances and their annual Spring Concert.
Since 2005, HDAT has grown as a leader in dance education, with teaching artists who have tenure of over eight years, annual engagement of 5,000 students in public, private and youth-serving organizations, 780 classes annually, and a sustained location for fourteen years, in the historic Hill District arts community, home of August Wilson and many great Black jazz and music artists.