A dancer in 'Come This Far by Faith.’
A dancer in ‘Come This Far by Faith.’
Photo by Bob Gore courtesy Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center

The Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center (THPAC) on Saturday featured “Having Come This Far By Faith” at Central Baptist Church of NYC, 166 W. 92nd St., in celebration of Black History Month.

The program, which was free to the public, featured dance excerpts from “The Gospel According to THPAC,” along with music and spoken word pieces from members and students of Central Baptist Church of NYC.

“The Gospel According to THPAC” was conceived by THPAC Executive Chairman Alex Smith Jr. and featured choreography by Jamel Gaines, Walter Rutledge and Nijawwon Matthews.

It was set to music by Stephanie Mills, Nina Simone, Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir, among others.

“I am thrilled to bring special moments of ‘The Gospel According to THPAC’ to the stage,” Smith said. “It was inspired by my mother and her great love of gospel music, which she passed along to me.

“She helped select the music, but she sadly passed away before she could see this work that tells the story of her spiritual journey,” he added. “When I conceived Gospel, I envisioned it being performed in a church, and Central Baptist Church of NYC is the perfect setting.”

THPAC will present “The Gospel According to THPAC” in its entirety on June 17 and 18, 7:00 p.m. , at Central Baptist Church.

Additional 2023 THPAC productions include “So Very Sly,” a multi-media presentation featuring choreography, visual projections and special effects set to music by Sly and the Family Stone, from June 29-30 at 7:30 p.m., at the Mark O’Donnell Theater in Manhattan.

“A Ramp to Paradise,” based on a short story by Smith published in an anthology, “A River Runs Beneath Us” will be performed on Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m., at The Schomburg Center, followed by an after-party with a live DJ.

THPAC said it was founded 46 years ago to support the creative ideas of choreographers and dance companies of color.

Its mission is to preserve and present the artistic vision of dance artists of color.

For 46 years, THPAC said it has supported and attracted emerging and established dance artists of color who seek out the organization’s experimental yet historically aware environment.

THPAC said it has become “a viable institution for communities that have traditionally celebrated and reflected on their social and cultural issues through the rituals of music, dance, literature, and performance.”

THPAC’s founder, Larry Phillips, began working as a dance therapist in Brooklyn at a community center that sponsored children’s education and support programs for single parents attending New York Technical College. The programs were the forerunner of THPAC.

In 1977, he renamed the organization after his renowned and highly influential teacher, the late Thelma Hill, who remains a positive force in the dance world of New York City and beyond.

Central Baptist Church of NYC said its mission  is “the same as Jesus gave his followers: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’”