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Arthur Mitchell

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Information about Arthur Mitchell

Profile image of Arthur Mitchell

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Dancer
Choreographer
Artistic Director

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Black
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken, Collard Greens
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
The Arts Ignite The Mind. They Give You The Possibility To Dream And Hope.

Birthplace

Born:
3/27/1934
Birth Location:
Harlem, New York

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Dancer
Choreographer
Artistic Director

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Black
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken, Collard Greens
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
The Arts Ignite The Mind. They Give You The Possibility To Dream And Hope.

Birthplace

Born:
3/27/1934
Birth Location:
Harlem
See how Arthur Mitchell is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Dancer, choreographer and artistic director Arthur Mitchell was born on March 27, 1934 in Harlem, New York to Arthur Mitchell, Sr. and Willie Hearns Mitchell. He attended the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. In addition to academics, Mitchell was a member of the New Dance Group, the Choreographers Workshop, Donald McKayle and Company, and High School of Performing Arts’ Repertory Dance Company. After graduating from high school in 1952, Mitchell received scholarships to attend the Dunham School and the School of American Ballet.

In 1954, Mitchell danced on Broadway in House of Flowers with Geoffrey Holder, Louis Johnson, Donald McKayle, Alvin Ailey and Pearl Bailey. He joined John Butler’s dance company in Europe before Lincoln Kirstein, general director of the New York City Ballet (NYCB), invited him to join NYCB’s corps de ballet. Mitchell became the first African American permanent member of a major American ballet company in 1955, when he performed with Tanaquil Le Clercq in Western Symphony. Then, in 1957, famed ballet choreographer George Balanchine choreographed Agon pas de deux, considered to be the first interracial duet in American ballet, for Mitchell and Diana Adams. Balanchine choreographed the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Mitchell, as Mitchell performed in a succession of NYCB productions, including Bugaku and Arcade, throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In 1966, Mitchell organized the American Negro Dance Company, which represented the U.S. at the first World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal. Mitchell then founded the National Ballet Company of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in 1968. Mitchell, with mentor and friend Karel Shook, co-founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1969, the first black classical ballet company, which debuted at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 1971. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Dance Theatre of Harlem produced ballets, including Dougla, Troy Game, The Firebird and Creole Giselle. When the Dance Theatre of Harlem performed in South Africa in 1992, it launched its international outreach program, Dancing Through Barriers, designed to educate children in dance through master classes and open rehearsals.

Mitchell received numerous awards. In 1993, he was recognized by the Kennedy Center Honors, and was named a MacArthur Genius Fellow in 1994. President Bill Clinton presented Mitchell with a U.S. National Medal of Arts in 1995. Then, in 1999, Mitchell was inducted into the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, the only U.S. museum dedicated exclusively to dance. He received the Heinz Award in Art and Humanities in 2001, and was featured in a PBS American Masters documentary, Balanchine in 2004. Between 2009 and 2010, the exhibit “Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts” premiered in New York City and Los Angeles. Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired Mitchell’s archives, its first major dance collection, in 2015.

Mitchell passed away on September 19, 2018.

Arthur Mitchell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 6, 2016.

See how Arthur Mitchell is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Arthur Mitchell's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell describes his mother's family background, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes how his parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell describes his childhood in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes his childhood in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes his siblings and their children
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes his father's incarceration
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell describes his early activities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell recalls his audition for the High School of Performing Arts in New York City
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell remembers the High School of Performing Arts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell describes his experiences of racial discrimination in dance companies
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes his role in 'Four Saints in Three Acts'
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers his decision to study with Katherine Dunham
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes his early interest in dance and theater
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes his work on 'Shinbone Alley'
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell remembers performing with Eartha Kitt
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell talks about his dance scholarships
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Arthur Mitchell describes how he decided to study ballet
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the professional dancers with whom he worked in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes his decision to leave Katherine Dunham School of Dance and Theatre
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell describes his involvement with New York City dance schools and productions
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes his body type and dance technique
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell describes his experiences of racial discrimination in ballet
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes the production of 'House of Flowers'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes his roles with June Taylor and Donald McKayle
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell remembers dancing in European productions
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell describes his perspective on religion
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Arthur Mitchell describes his performance in George Balanchine's 'Western Symphony'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell describes the African American dance community of the 1940s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes the School of American Ballet and 'House of Flowers'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon being the first African American dancer in the New York City Ballet
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes how he became a member of the New York City Ballet
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers learning ballet techniques
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell talks about the differences between dance companies
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls Tanaquil Le Clercq's polio diagnosis
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes George Balanchine's interest in Josephine Baker
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell describes his relationship with George Balanchine
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell remembers George Balanchine creating 'Agon'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes the production of 'Agon'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell describes George Balanchine's creative process
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell talks about his experiences at the New York City Ballet
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers traveling to Russia with the New York City Ballet
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell remembers dancing for George Balanchine
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls dancing in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes Tanaquil Le Clercq's role at the Dance Theatre of Harlem
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell remembers George Balanchine's reputation
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell talks about the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell recalls working with Doris Jones and Claire Haywood
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell recalls founding the National Ballet Company of Brazil
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes his ballet, 'Rhythmetron'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers his Broadway roles
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell remembers 'House of Flowers' and Lincoln Kirstein
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell remembers choreographing 'The Cotton Club'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell recalls founding the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his teaching style
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell describes the Dance Theatre of Harlem's repertoire
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the Dance Theatre of Harlem's debut performance
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell remembers dancing in Spoleto, Italy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the state of the arts in New York City
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers Geoffrey Holder, Katherine Dunham and George Balanchine
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes the Dance Theatre of Harlem's international tours
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls his trips to Russia, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell recalls his trips to Russia, pt. 2
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell describes the funding for the Dance Theatre of Harlem
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes the faculty of the Dance Theatre of Harlem
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his work with the Dance Theatre of Harlem
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell recalls an instance of vandalism at the Dance Theatre of Harlem
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers purchasing a studio for the Dance Theatre of Harlem
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes his ballet, 'Creole Giselle'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the Dance Theatre of Harlem's principal dancers
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes the television broadcast of 'Creole Giselle'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the success of the Dance Theatre of Harlem
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the Dance Theatre of Harlem's funding, pt. 1
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the Dance Theatre of Harlem' funding, pt. 2
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the Dance Theatre of Harlem strike
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon men and women's patronage of the arts
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell talks about the Harlem Homecoming program
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his awards and honors
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes the Dance Theatre of Harlem's international appeal
  • Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes his departure from the Dance Theatre of Harlem
  • Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the future of the Dance Theatre of Harlem
  • Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Arthur Mitchell describes his international travels
  • Tape: 9 Story: 11 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his impact on the black dance community, pt. 1
  • Tape: 9 Story: 12 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his impact in the black dance community, pt. 2
  • Tape: 9 Story: 13 - Arthur Mitchell describes his plans for the future
  • Tape: 9 Story: 14 - Arthur Mitchell describes his choreographic process
  • Tape: 9 Story: 15 - Arthur Mitchell remembers working with Marian Anderson and Aretha Franklin
  • Tape: 9 Story: 16 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 9 Story: 17 - Arthur Mitchell talks about his archive