About Us

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Gospel Suite 1980

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Shakuntala 2017 Grand View University

Water is Life   2010

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


Since its founding in1972, Gateway Dance Theatre (GDT) a nonprofit arts organization has been moving to the rhythms of the world for four decades. GDT performs and creates diverse, contemporary and traditional dance from African-American, Caribbean, Asian and Indian music with movement into a multi-media experience for people of all ages, skills and cultures. More than a dance studio, GDT located in the heart of downtown Des Moines, Iowa, is company rich in culture, education, friendship and joy. 

GDT's vision is to advance a diverse arts movement through performing Arts for all ages, to broaden Arts outreach, increased cultural sensitivity, and social justice awareness.

GDT began classes in the Moulton elementary school neighborhood, and eventually found a home at the Evelyn Davis Tiny Tot center, although classes were also held at King, Casady, Edmunds , Moulton Elementary Schools. The classes were open and available for all ages, and was a pioneer in offering arts as an after school program. The Furgerson’s believed that dance and music would be a good outlet for children, youth and adults who were dealing with the social and cultural barriers in society. Hoping to create a gateway for youth and adults to use their voice through movement and other arts and sharing with the Des Moines metro to bring Diversity in the arts.

Over the years GDT has broken down racial and cultural barriers while blurring the boundaries between dance and theatre. GDT has brought international artists to the metro area, provided camps that touch on both the arts and sciences, and provided school residencies reaching hundreds and hundreds of students of all generations. In short, GDT has created the opportunity for students of various backgrounds to use their voice through the arts and to know that they're voice is important.


GDT has been actively engaged in bringing together various Iowa communities to create a rich tapestry of fine arts, performing arts and music. Inspired by the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, and the Kalakshetra Dance Academy of India, the organization was created to provide quality urban arts programs. Over the years, GDT has held performing arts classes, workshops, residencies and performances.

Gateway Dance Theatre continues now in its fourth decade with the help of the next generation, the founders three sons Lee, Tom and John and granddaughter Sydney are actively involved in keeping GDT moving to the rhythms of the world.


Awards presented to Gateway Dance Theatre


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 – Gateway Dance Theatre
Des Moines Chapter of the Links
Arts Award to Lee and Penny Furgerson – Gateway Dance Theatre
YWCA Women of Achievement
Honors Penny Furgerson for her outstanding contributions to the Des Moines Arts Community.


Lee B. and Penny Furgerson 

Lee B Furgerson Jr., Director & General Manager

The late Lee Furgerson, co-founder was the facilitator and the motivational force behind GDT. He brought his love and passion for the arts, to his role as Director and General Manager. He used his creative and technical talents in sound recording and production, film-making and lighting with GDT. In addition, he selected and edited most of the company’s music and his attention to detail helped develop GDT’s choreography and its productions. He also trained his sons and others to develop their technical skills for production and video production.

His responsibilities included all areas both technical and managerial, and served as the company’s master critic.

Lee was an Administrator at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa prior to his medical leave. He had also served on the Executive Committees of numerous Civic Boards such as United Way, Children’s and Families of Iowa, Model Cities Center, and the school Desegregation program, several church and political committees. He discontinued all his civic commitments for health reasons, however he continued to serve as Chairperson, for the Iowa U.S. Civil Rights Commission.


Penny Furgerson, Executive Artistic Director

Penny Furgerson and her late husband Lee have always believed in the power of the universal language of the arts. A native of Bombay, India, Penny was trained in classical Indian dance and followed that passion even as she moved to the United States and studied Pharmacy at Drake University.

Penny Furgerson has always enjoyed dance, however with her late husband's encouragement it also became one of her passions! Penny co -founded with her late husband Lee, Gateway Dance Theatre shortly after her return to dance in the Drama Workshop production of Kismet in 1972. Her dance career began in her native country of India where she studied Indian Classical dance since childhood.


While a Chemistry major student at St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, India, she helped institute the St. Xavier's College Cultural Academy (that still exists) and performed in the premiere ballet. Traveling to the United States, she also danced with the Ram Gopal Company representing India at the International Festival of the Arts, Edinburgh, Scotland. After graduation with a Pharmacy degree from Drake University, 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 of the Dark Chamber" for the University of Iowa, Theatre Department that eventually went to New York with Brock Peters. Since then, she 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 contribution to the Arts. She has choreographed several works for the company. Penny retired as the Pharmacy Consultant directing the Pharmacy programs for Blue Cross-and Blue Shield of Iowa (now Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa).


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World Food Festival 2018

Shakuntala  preview rehearsal 2016

SASI  (Summer Arts & Science Intensive) Camp   Photosynthesis 2019

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Cattell School  After school 2018

sm.ART camp kids 2010

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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!

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