Laveen Naidu, Executive Director
Laveen Naidu was born in Durban, South Africa, and began studying South Indian classical dance at the age of 10 and classical ballet at age 14. He entered the University of Cape Town Ballet School on a full scholarship in 1986 and graduated with a diploma in ballet pedagogy in 1988. As a student, Naidu was selected to represent the university at the first National Ballet Competition, where he advanced to the finalist round and received special mention from the judges. He was also invited to perform with the Natal Arts Performing Board in one of the lead roles in Frank Staff’s “Lady and the Fool.” As a volunteer, Naidu became the first dance teacher in a project that was started by David Poole, then artistic director of the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB) Ballet, designed to introduce young people in the nearby “black townships” to ballet.
Immediately following his graduation, Naidu was accepted into the CAPAB Ballet Company and was featured in many soloist roles before receiving a scholarship from the Dance Theatre of Harlem School. In 1991, he joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company, where he performed in works by Arthur Mitchell, Billy Wilson, Michael Smuin, Geoffrey Holder, Garth Fagan and other well-known choreographers.
Five years later, Naidu assumed the responsibility of Dance Theatre of Harlem School Ensemble Coordinator, which involved coaching and preparing a core group of pre-professional dancers for a professional career. Answering the need for the growing demand of educational activities, Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) formalized its educational and community outreach activities under the banner of Dancing Through Barriers®. Naidu served as the Director of Dancing Through Barriers from 1997 to 2004, where he was responsible for overseeing all the artistic and administrative functions of the program.
In 1998, in collaboration with Arthur Mitchell, co-founder and artistic director of DTH, and Augustus van Heerdan, ballet master, Naidu choreographed his first ballet for the DTH Company. The ballet, named South African Suite, was commissioned by The Kennedy Center and received very favorable reviews at its premier in Washington D.C. South African Suite has since been performed throughout the United States and in several foreign countries and remains a featured work in the DTH repertory.
In 2000, Naidu took on the additional responsibility as Director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem School, where he oversaw all activities of both the DTH School and Dancing Through Barriers.
Naidu choreographed Viraa for the DTH Company, which premiered in New York City in September 2001. He also served as a visiting lecturer and choreographer at Barnard College in 2004.
In December 2004, Naidu was appointed to his current position of executive director for Dance Theatre of Harlem. That same year Naidu became a member of the Arts Management / Capacity Building Program at The Kennedy Center under the leadership of Michael Kaiser. Additionally, he completed the Executive Leadership Program at Harvard Business School in June 2008.