The Dance World Mourns A Pioneer
A community lost an icon on Wednesday when renowned ballet dancer Arthur Mitchell died at age 84. Mitchell’s niece told The New York Timesthat he passed from complications due to heart failure.
Mitchell is credited as breaking down barriers for Black ballet dancers and he even referred to himself as the Jackie Robinson of ballet, according to New York Daily News.
Mitchel grew up in Harlem and he made his debut in the New York City Ballet in 1955 as one of the company’s first Black dancers. Within only a year he made principal dancer and starred in shows such as The Nutcracker and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Mitchell even danced internationally in places like Paris and the (former) Soviet Union.
One of the biggest highlights of Mitchell’s life came after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1969. King’s death inspired Mitchell to leave the ballet and co-found the Dance Theater of Harlem geared towards young people in his community. The school started with 30 students in a church basement and eventually grew to 400 students within two months.
The school ended performances in 2004 because of massive debt, but it eventually opened back up in 2012.
“It’s with the deepest sadness we share the news that our founding artistic director, the great, Arthur Mitchell has passed away,” the school posted on Twitter. “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!”
R.I.P. Arthur Mitchell!