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About Us

Shakuntala preview rehearsal, 2016
Photo : Eric Salmon

World Food Festival, 2017
Photo : Eric Salmon

Co-Founders Penny & Lee B.Furgerson II
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Summer workshop showcase 
students at Central Library, 2008

Photo : Eric Salmon

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GDT dancers-Gospel Suite, 1982
Photo : Dave Penney
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Diwali  party, GDT studio, 2019
Photo : Eric Salmon

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SASI (Summer Arts & Science) Camp
Photosynthesis, 2019
Photo : Eric Salmon

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Gateway Dance Theatre uses the arts to engage, communicate, educate and collaborate with diverse  communities to enrich lives.

GDT's vision is to advance a diverse art movement for all ages, broaden arts outreach, increase cultural sensitivity, and champion social justice.


Since 1972, Gateway Dance Theatre (GDT) has been moving to the rhythms of the world, fusing African-American, Caribbean, Asian and Indian music and movement into a multimedia experience for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Inspired by Katherine Dunham, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Alvin American Dance Theatre, and established by Penny and the late Lee Furgerson, Gateway Dance Theatre remains committed to its mission of providing education, training and arts outreach programs to promote intercultural awareness and an appreciation of diversity through a professionally directed dance experience.


Gateway Dance Theatre is an urban arts multifaceted program to provide quality arts programming. GDT is more than dance! GDT is a family-friendly program based on the concept that training in the arts is essential to a complete education. The language of arts is universal. Music, drama, visual and literary arts are presented with an emphasis on building self-esteem, discipline, awareness and confidence. Gateway Dance Theatre’s presence and active engagement in the community is a catalyst to reach diverse communities to build cultural, leadership and economic relationships, and promote social justice.


Gateway Dance Theatre achieves its mission through:

  • Weekly Classes - to introduce participants to the music and dance cultures of the world.

  • Residency Program - hosting nationally recognized dancers and musicians.

  • Workshops - programs designed to bring dance demonstrations and the rhythms of the world to organizations and educational institutions.

  • Performances - incorporating music, dance, lighting and sound, performances provide an opportunity for participants to develop discipline, teamwork skills and self-esteem.

  • Outreach - to take the GDT experience to other locations.


Lee B.  and Penny Furgerson 

Lee B. Furgerson (1937-1998)
General Manager and Technical Director 

Lee Furgerson used his creative and technical talents in sound recording and sound reproduction, film making, and lighting with GDT. He also edited and selected most of the company's music. His role also extended into the creative choreography process, and he served as the company's master critic. His responsibilities encompassed all technical, business and managerial aspects within GDT.


Penny Furgerson, Artistic Director 

Penny has always enjoyed dance, and her late husband's encouragement made it one of her passions. Penny and Lee Furgerson co-founded Gateway Dance Theatre shortly after her return to dance in the Des Moines Drama Workshop production of Kismet in 1972. Penny’s dance career began in her native country of India where she studied Indian classical dance since childhood.


A chemistry major at St. Xavier’s College in India, she helped institute the St. Xavier’s College Cultural Academy (which still exists) and performed in its premier ballet. En route to the United States, she danced with the Ram Gopal Company representing India at the International Festival of the Arts in Edinburgh, Scotland. After graduation from Drake University's College of Pharmacy, Penny performed the lead role in the New York City Off-Broadway production of Kalidasa’s "Legend of Shakuntala" at St. Mark’s Playhouse. Later she choreographed the production of "King in the Dark Chamber" for the University of Iowa’s Theatre Department that eventually transferred to New York under Brock Peters. Since then, she has made numerous appearances as a solo artist.


She also choreographed the "King and I" for the Des Moines Community Playhouse and received the YWCA’s "Woman of Achievement" award for her contributions to the arts. She has also choreographed several works for GDT.

View the University of Iowa's archive on Penny Furgerson by clicking here

Awards presented to Gateway Dance Theatre


Governor's Art Legacy Award0


Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit Leadership Award

DSM/Business Record Sages over 70


Delta Sigma Theta Alumni Chapter Performance award


HTCC Hindu Temple Cultural Center GDT Recognition Award•          


Delta Sigma Theta Alumni Chapter, Lifetime Achievement Award for Dedication to the Arts


Chinese Association of Iowa, Artist of the Year


Iowa Council for International Understanding, Passport to Prosperity Award

For contributions made by immigrants and refugees


Chrysalis Foundation -HER Story: Contribution to young women especially in the Arts


 I'll Make Me a World in Iowa Heritage Legacy Organization Award: Recognizing outstanding organizations whose actions have contributed to the quality of life for African Americans and made the world a better place for all Iowans


National Black Child Development Institute of Des Moines, Iowa: Award for the Arts


Des Moines Chapter of the Links 

Arts Award to Lee and Penny Furgerson, Gateway Dance Theatre


YWCA Women of Achievement Award 

Penny Furgerson in recognition of outstanding contributions to the Des Moines, Iowa

Community for the Arts




Charitable contributions are tax-deductible! And they go to support class scholarships and our Community Classes for Youth and Community Events for adults.


United Way contributions can be directed to Gateway Dance Theatre. And many generous employers match a portion of their employees' gifts to eligible charitable organizations and yours may do the same. 

Thank you for supporting our programs!

You may send checks directly to:

Gateway Dance Theatre

900 Keosaqua Way #106

Des Moines, IA 50309

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SASI (Summer Arts & Science) Camp
Photosynthesis, 2019
Photo : Eric Salmon

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