Custom Search 1

Trailblazing black ballet dancer Arthur Mitchell dies

TRAILBLAZER: Ballet dancer Arthur Mitchell (Image: Dance Theatre of Harlem/Instagram)

ONE OF the first black ballet dancers has died aged 84.

Arthur Mitchell, a pioneering African-American dancer, was the first black ballet dancer to attain international fame.

Mitchell, the co-founder of Dance Theatre of Harlem, the first black major classical ballet company in the US, paved the way for African American dancers.

In a statement announcing his death, Dance Theatre of Harlem said: “It’s with the deepest sadness we share the news that our founding artistic director, the great, Arthur Mitchell has passed away. His legacy of passion, power, and perfection will live on through each and every person he’s touched in his lifetime. We love you and we honor you!”

It is understood his death, at a hospital in New York City, was the result of complications of heart failure.

In an interview with the New York Times in January, Mitchell said his greatest achievement was: “That I actually bucked society, and an art form that was three, four hundred years old, and brought black people into it.”

Anna Glass, the current director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, told The Associated Press that Mitchell "believed in a world where all people could have access to this beautiful art form" and that he "really sought to ensure that all people saw themselves” in ballet.

GROUNDBREAKING: Arthur Mitchell dancing with Diana Adams

Mitchell’s rise to fame was catapulted by his duet with Diana Adams, a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, in a performance choreographed by George Balanchine, the co-founder of the New York City Ballet.

“Can you imagine the audacity to take an African-American and Diana Adams, the essence and purity of Caucasian dance, and to put them together on the stage?

“Everybody was against him [Balanchine]. He knew what he was going against, and he said, ‘You know my dear, this has got to be perfect’,” Mitchell told the New York Times.

One of his last ballet performances was “Requiem Canticles”, a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr with the City Ballet.

Tributes have been paid to Mitchell by those who knew him and admired him.

The Apollo Theatre in New York displayed the words: “In memory of dance pioneer Arthur Mitchell.”

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.

Facebook Comments