By Walter Rutledge
Arthur Mitchell, dancer, teacher, choreographer, social activist and founding director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem passed on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at age 84 from complications of heart failure. Mitchell’s career can only be described as trailblazing. In 1956 he crossed what E.B. Debois referred to as the “color line” to become the first ballet dancer of African decent to join the international renowned New York City Ballet.
Mitchell may have crossed the “color line”, but despite his twelve-year association with New York City Ballet he realized he wasn’t able to erase it. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. assassination forced Mitchell to boldly implemented another Debois concept that would have a lasting effect on Harlem and the world – “Self Determination”; with the February 11, 1969 incorporation of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Arthur Mitchell’s untimely death comes on the eve of the company’s 50th anniversary celebration, which will include a revival of his ballet Tones II (1970).