It's been more than a decade since the Dance Theatre of Harlem ventured to Connecticut.
But on Sunday, the renowned -- and revitalized -- company makes the 60-minute trip from Manhattan to Westport. And they're doing it for a cause: to raise funds for the Bridgeport-based Neighborhood Studios of Fairfield County, a nonprofit arts school for children and older students, including challenged and at-risk youth.
Performances by the 18-member dance troupe is the highlight of the NSFC's annual spring gala, which raises monies to fund its plethora of after-school and summer arts programs for about 1,600 Greater Bridgeport students.
"Dance Theatre of Harlem is very glad to be performing to benefit such a great cause," Executive Director Laveen Naidu said. "Neighborhood Studios shares our mission of empowering young people through the arts."
That sentiment is echoed by dancer Jenelle Figgins, a native of Washington, D.C. In a recent telephone chat, Figgins said that ironically the Dance Theatre of Harlem was the first ballet company she was exposed to at the Kennedy Center in her hometown.
"I remember saying to myself that I would someday dance with the company as my older sister had done. I knew then and there that this company was very special. And now it's a dream come true," said Figgins, who received a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance, with honors, in 2011 from the State University of New York at Purchase.
Since graduation, she has danced professionally with Mettin Movement Collective, Collage Dance Collective and Les Grands Ballet Canadiens de Montreal. She joined the "reborn" DTH for the 2012-13 season; the company, which was founded in 1969, had been on hiatus since 2004.
"We still uphold our classical dance traditions, and also incorporate great new contemporary works," Figgins said. "We are in a new era of outreach, and are always aware of our multicultural audience. Our goal is to create something amazing, not just for dance enthusiasts, but for people in general, for people of all ages."
Figgins said the company "is always pushing forward," and just last month spent eight days in Honduras on a cultural exchange program.
"We've become so much more inclusive. I love that goal, and the social and cultural missions that we have. I can't imagine being with any other company," Figgins said.