Remembering Arthur Mitchell: A Monumental Legacy

NEW YORK (AP) — Arthur Mitchell, who broke barriers for African-Americans in the 1950s as a ballet dancer with the New York City Ballet and who would go on to become a driving force in the creation of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, has died. He was 84.

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Our Story:  My daughter auditioned and was selected to attend the world-renown Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) Summer Intensive program.  DTH has helped her improve her dance acumen, hone her technique, and learn more about the history of dance, dancers and “pretty brown dancers.”  This summer, her friends from Studio A Academy and Sudbrook Magnet Middle School attended with her, and it is a treasured memory that she will cherish for a lifetime.

Oliva_DTH (2)I am so grateful to Arthur Mitchell for not moving to Europe 50 years ago.  They say that everything happens for a reason.  Well, Arthur Mitchell was leaving New York ballet to start a dance school in Brazil when he learned of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  He decided that he did not have to start a school in Brazil for dancers who look like him when there were dancers right here in America, in his hometown of Harlem.  Mr. Mitchell, along with Karol Shook, founded Dance Theatre of Harlem “to give the children of Harlem the same opportunities Mitchell had as a teenager.”  There were very few opportunities for classically trained dancers of color at that time.  Arthur Mitchell paved the way.  He did what no one else had done, and it still lives today!

My daugher, her friends and lots of young ladies and men are better dancers, better people today because of the vision and work of Arthur Mitchell.  I salute you Mr. Mitchell.  I salute the wonderful company dancers, administrators, teachers and mentors of Dance Theatre of Harlem for your hard work and dedication to developing dancers and leaders in our community.  Thank you!

To learn more about Dance Theatre of Harlem, please visit their website at Dance Theatre of Harlem.

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