Black Excellence in Dance - Arthur Mitchell

Growing up in Harlem, Arthur Mitchell was one of four siblings, and the son of a building superintendent.

Experiencing the obvious need to help his family survive financially, Mitchell found himself working quite a few jobs by the time he was 12 years old to help his family make ends meet.

Though quite busy with work for most of his young life, Mitchell unfortunately found himself becoming involved with street gangs, a path that thankfully did not derail his chances of artistic and professional success.

As a young teen, prompted by the encouraging words of a guidance counselor, Mitchell decided to apply to the High School of Performing Arts, where he was accepted and began classes, quickly deciding that he would like to pursue a career in Classical Ballet.

After graduating from HSPA, Mitchell experienced his Broadway debut in 1952 in Four Saints in Three Acts, returning two years later to perform in House of Flowers, alongside notable figures such as Alvin Ailey.

The following year (1955,) Mitchell then made his debut as the first African American to dance with the New York City Ballet, rising to the role of principal dancer before the end of the following year, appearing in productions such as The Nutcracker, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

While dancing with the NYCB, during performances of Agon, audiences began expressing anger that Mitchell was being paired with a white woman for his pas de deux, which held the production away from larger, and even televised venues. The director and choreographer stood by the decision of the partnership however, and in 1968, their performance was televised on Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show," breaking boundaries forever.

Arthur Mitchell would go on to relocate to Brazil, and become the official founder of the National Ballet Company of Brazil.

Here's to Arthur Mitchell. (March 27, 1934 - September 19, 2018)

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