Dance Pioneer Arthur Mitchell

May 13, 2015

Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library has acquired the archive of pioneering ballet dancer, artistic director and choreographer Arthur Mitchell.

“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,” said Mitchell. “With these materials now at Columbia, artifacts of American dance history and African-American history will be accessible to young scholars, academics and the general public, furthering this push for change.”

The collection contains photographs, posters, programs, clippings, correspondence, early film footage and video content that tell the story of Mitchell’s acclaimed career, which helped change the landscape of ballet in America. He was the first African-American principal dancer of a major ballet company, the New York City Ballet, where co-founder and choreographer George Balanchine created iconic roles for him. Although Mitchell continued to dance on occasion with the New York City Ballet, he left full-time performing to co-found with Karel Shook the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the first African-American classical ballet company to achieve international acclaim.

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