9/25/18 O&A NYC INSPIRATIONAL TUESDAY: Arthur Mitchell Inspires Students at SAB (May 2018)

By Walter Rutledge

Back in 2014 I received a phone call from Arthur Mitchell. He knew my association with the Romare Bearden Foundation, and that Romare’s archives were housed at Columbia University.  He needed information about the process so he could do the same with his own legacy. “Hold on Sir”, I put him on hold and called Deidre Kelly the co-director of the Romare Bearden Foundation. Diedre gave me the contact information he requested. Continue reading

9/19/18 O&A NYC MILESTONES: Arthur Mitchell Dance Trailblazer Died at 84

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.

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4/13/18 O&A NYC DANCE: O&A NYC Picks Of The Week

New York City is the dance capital of the world! This week we have modern masters in Manhattan, Hip- Hop Downtown, and Burlesque in Brooklyn. Here are a few events guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading

4/4/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Dougla Returns to Dance Theatre of Harlem Tonight

Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) begins their four performance New York season tonight at New York City Center. One of the season highlights is the much-anticipated revival of choreographer/Renaissance Man Geoffrey Holder’s Dougla. Dougla captures the pageantry, beauty and ritual of a the wedding day of a young Dougla couple from Trinidad. They are the offspring of Africans who were brought to the Caribbean as slaves and Indians who were brought as low cost labor after the abolition of slavery. Continue reading

4/2/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Ingrid Silva- Brown Ballerina

By Walter Rutledge

Ingrid Silva was like every little girl who studied ballet; she dreamed of being a ballerina. As Silva’s potential became evident she realized that there was little opportunity for a dark-skinned classical dancer in Brazil. In 2008, at age 18, she left home and moved to New York City to study at the Dance Theatre of Harlem.    Continue reading

2/9/18 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY: Giselle’s Mad Scene- Virginia Johnson and the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem presented the Creole Giselle in 1987 the world transported the classic ballet from the medieval Rhineland to the Louisiana bayous of the 19th century. In this production the cast includes Virginia Johnson- Giselle, Eddie Shellman- Albrecht and Thera Ward- Bathilde. Continue reading

1/26/18 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY: An Afternoon With Arthur Mitchell

By Walter Rutledge


I believe that children are our future;
Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside.
Give them a sense of pride,
To make it easier;
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be. George Benson- The Greatest  
                                                                                                                                    

This is the opening stanza for George Benson’s The Greatest written for the 1977 biopic of the same title about Muhammad Ali. It is also the music and title of a duet choreographed by Arthur Mitchell for Dance Theatre Of Harlem, and in many ways it remains Mitchell’s credo. An Afternoon with Arthur Mitchell presented at the Lenfest Center for the Arts, Columbia University on Saturday, January 20, 2018 was an opportunity to see a master teacher, director, educator and showman in action.

 After a short introduction Mitchell and percussionist Baba Don Eaton Lenfest Center for the Arts, Columbia University proceeded to teach the audience a series of polyrhythmic music passages. The highlight was a rare screening of the dance documentary (1973), featuring Mitchell’s ballet Rhythmetron, and a fledgling Dance Theatre of Harlem. Most of the film took place in the basement of the Church of the Master, the home of his first school at 81 Morningside Avenue.

Throughout the film Mitchell shares his gift of dance with the charm, confidence and authority that has become his trademark. He masterfully used popular social dances as a bridge to ballet. Mitchell made classic ballet less foreign and more accessible to the young audience from the Harlem community. It was wonderful seeing a performance by the original cast of Rhythmetron; which featured Lydia Abarca, Yvonne Hall, Virginia Johnson, Ronald Perry and Walter Raines.

Following the film Mitchell took questions from the audience, which included balletomanes, dance history enthusiasts and young dancers from Harlem School Of The Arts and Dance Theatre Of Harlem. At 83 years old Mitchell displayed the same vigor, charisma and irrepressible wit we had seen earlier in the film. Always “Mr. Mitchell”, he shared anecdotes, offered advice, and even corrected deportment with an uncompromising paternal demeanor.

An Afternoon With Arthur Mitchell

In her book Page by Page author Ruth Page has a chapter entitled Father Mitchell 1972. Page writes: “Arthur Mitchell is a person with no vices. He doesn’t smoke or drink, and eats a lot of ice cream. He works very hard and is truly a splendid example for young dancers. He is really a sort of Sir Galahad.”

For more information about the Wallach Art Gallery and the Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer exhibition and related events visit wallach.columbia.edu. 

Upcoming events include:

Wallach Gallery Talks
Saturday January 27, 2018 1:00 – 1:30PM
Learn more about key works in the Arthur Mitchell archive from different perspectives. All talks begin at 1 pm and meet in the Wallach Art Gallery lobby on the 6th floor. Lynn Garafola, exhibition curator and Professor Emerita of Dance, Barnard College, Columbia University.

Wallach Family Afternoon
Saturday February 10, 2018 1:00 – 3:00PM
An afternoon of storytelling, art-making and movement for families to enjoy together.

Discussion with former dancers from the Dance Theatre of Harlem
Saturday  February 24, 2018, 1pm

For more information about the Wallach Art Gallery and the Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer exhibition and related events visit wallach.columbia.edu. 

 

 

 

 

 

1/15/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Opening Reception for Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer

Opening Reception for Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer took place on the 8th floor of  Columbia University’s Manhattanville Campus Lenfest Center for the Arts. The gathering celebrated the first major exhibition devoted to the life and accomplishments of Arthur Mitchell, New York City Ballet’s first African- American principal dancer, and founder/artistic director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. The evening brought together former and present Dance Theatre of Harlem company members and staff, colleagues, old friends, balletomanes; and dance and cultural historians. In an unexpected highlight Mitchell partnered former DTH dancer Paunika Jones reinforcing that this octogenarian teacher, choreographer, dance and social icon still leads by example.

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Mitchell donated his personal archive to Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library in 2014. The Arthur Mitchell Collection on display in the 6th floor Wallach Art Gallery was curated by Lynn Garafola, Professor Emerita of Dance, Barnard College, and includes photographs, drawings, posters, memorabilia, and rare video footage. The collection not only provides an important insight into the groundbreaking career of Mitchell, but also illustrates how the arts can create social change. “I believe that dance, and the arts more broadly, can be used as a catalyst for social change—this is why I started the Dance Theatre of Harlem”, states Mitchell.

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Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer runs from January 13 through March 11, 2018. In addition to the exhibition special events have been planned including:

An Afternoon with Arthur Mitchell
Saturday, January 20, 2018 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
This special afternoon includes a rare screening of the dance documentary, Rhythmetron with a live appearance by Arthur Mitchell.

Wallach Gallery Talks
Saturday January 27, 2018 1:00 – 1:30PM
Learn more about key works in the Arthur Mitchell archive from different perspectives. All talks begin at 1 pm and meet in the Wallach Art Gallery lobby on the 6th floor. Lynn Garafola, exhibition curator and Professor Emerita of Dance, Barnard College, Columbia University.

Wallach Family Afternoon
Saturday February 10, 2018 1:00 – 3:00PM
An afternoon of storytelling, art-making and movement for families to enjoy together.

For more information about the Wallach Art Gallery and the Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer exhibition and related events including: An Afternoon with Arthur Mitchell (January 20, 2018, 1pm) and Panel Discussion with former dancers from the Dance Theatre of Harlem (February 24, 2018, 1pm) visit wallach.columbia.edu. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 13– March 11, 2018

 

 

 

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

 

 

 

 

The collection provides insight into the career and life mission of Mitchell, as a dancer, teacher, choreographer and social activist.

 

The first major exhibition devoted to Arthur Mitchell, this project celebrates the life and accomplishments of the New York City Ballet’s first African American star, and the founder and longtime director of the Dance Theater of Harlem. This event will take place on Friday, January 12, from 6-8 pm in the spacious new Wallach Art Gallery at the Lenfest Center for the Arts.

 

1/7/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Agon- New York City Ballet (1960)

Agon– the complete ballet with the original cast featuring Diana Adams, Todd Bolender, Jillana,  Arthur Mitchell, Richard Rapp, Francia Russell, Roy Tobias, and Violette Verdy.  Continue reading

1/6/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer- A Retrospect On A Life Devoted To Dance

By Walter Rutledge

Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer will open at Columbia’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, 615 W 129th St, on Saturday January 13, 2018. The exhibit is presented in collaboration with Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, where Mitchell donated his archive in 2015. This is the first major exhibition devoted to celebrating the life and accomplishments of   New York City Ballet’s first African American principal dancer and the co-founder and longtime director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Curated by Lynn Garafola, Professor Emerita of Dance, Barnard College the collection will be on view through March 11, 2018

“This exhibition pays homage both to Mitchell’s creative magic and to his visionary achievements, revealing to those who never saw him dance his charismatic stage presence and the full scope of his career as an artist,” said Garafola. “At the same time, it places the Dance Theatre of Harlem, which he co-founded and directed for more than 40 years, at the crossroads of political, artistic and racial change in the United States and beyond.”

Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer will feature objects from Mitchell’s archive, including the telegram from Lincoln Kirstein to Mitchell inviting him to join the New York City Ballet, an Al Hirschfeld drawing of Suzanne Farrell and Mitchell in Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Mitchell’s 1952 Four Saints in Three Acts souvenir program and posters from the 1961 Spoleto Festival, where Mitchell both choreographed and performed.                                                                  

Other highlights are photographs of Mitchell and fellow dancers by Anthony Crickmay, Peter Basch, Martha Swope and Antony Armstrong-Jones (Lord Snowdon), and an eight-foot-long Dance Theatre of Harlem puzzle, created by Frank Bara in 1991, that chronicles the first two decades of the company’s history with illustrative detail of its artists, heroes and friends. Dancer Charmaine Hunter’s costume and headpiece designed by Geoffrey Holder for Firebird (1982), one of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s signature works, will be on view, as well as performance footage from a number of sources including the New York Public Library’s Jerome Robbins Dance Division.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Dance Pioneer Arthur Mitchell

“I am a political activist through dance,” said Mitchell, who received a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Columbia in May of 2016. “I believe that dance, and the arts more broadly, can be used as a catalyst for social change—this is why I started the Dance Theatre of Harlem. With my archive at Columbia, artifacts of American dance history and African American history are accessible to young scholars, academics and the general public. The exhibition at the Wallach Gallery will further this push for change.”

The Wallach Art Gallery advances Columbia’s historical, critical and creative engagement with the visual arts. Serving as both a laboratory and a forum, the Wallach offers opportunities for curatorial practice and discourse, while bridging the diverse approaches to the arts at the University with a welcome broader public. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, noon until 8pm and Saturday and Sunday, noon until 6 pm. The Wallach Art Gallery is free and open to the public.

“Our grand re-opening year at the Lenfest Center for the Arts is the perfect opportunity to celebrate Mitchell’s artistic genius, through the holdings of Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The Wallach is proud to collaborate on this presentation, offering a glimpse of these treasures to the public, while also appealing to those interested in the history of ballet, the history of Harlem and, more broadly, modern American race relations,” said Deborah Cullen, Director and Chief Curator of the Wallach Art Gallery.

For more information about the Wallach Art Gallery and the Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer exhibition and related events including: An Afternoon with Arthur Mitchell (January 20, 2018, 1pm) and Panel Discussion with former dancers from the Dance Theatre of Harlem (February 24, 2018, 1pm) visit wallach.columbia.edu. 

To watch the complete Agon featuring the original cast click below

http://outandaboutnycmag.com/1-7-18-oa-nyc-dance-agon-new-york-city-ballet-1960/