Arthur Mitchell, the founder of Dance Theater of Harlem and the first black principal of New York City Ballet, is bringing his dance archive to New York's esteemed Columbia University. The university will confer a degree of Doctor of Humane Letters on the legendary dance pioneer and social activist Arthur Mitchell this month. The honorary degree, which will be awarded during Commencement exercises on May 18, 2016, recognizes the trailblazing role Arthur Mitchell has played in diversifying classical dance.
Mitchell joined New York City Ballet in 1955, and in 1957 danced the first interracial duet in American ballet with Diana Adams to George Balanchine's choreography. Mitchell would remain the only African-American company member during his 15 years dancing with New York City Ballet.
Founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Mitchell was a pioneer in bringing dance classes to children of Harlem, so that they did not have to travel far in order to take these classes. At its inception in 1969, Dance Theatre of Harlem held classes in a garage on 152nd Street in Harlem. The company made its official debut in 1971 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, with three ballets choreographed by Mitchell. They also performed several works by Balanchine and Jerome Robbins during the company’s inaugural season.
Watch this video of Arthur Mitchell talking about the Arthur Mitchell Collection at Columbia!