A dancer and choreographer who blazed a trail for African-Americans in ballet is coming to Ohio State for the first time.
In 1955, Arthur Mitchell was the first African-American dancer in the New York City Ballet and then became a lead dancer. While in the New York City Ballet, Mitchell performed in ballets such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Nutcracker,” “Bugaku” and “Agon.”
Dori Jenks, the external relations coordinator for OSU’s Department of Dance, said that Mitchell is coming to Columbus to scout dancers. She said that Melanye White Dixon, an associate professor in the dance department, contacted a former student of Mitchell’s who reached out to him to set up the lecture.
“The school of dance is honored to have a living legend come to Ohio State and share his vast life experience with our students, faculty and the public,” Jenks said.
Dixon said that Mitchell wants to bring more ethnic diversity to the ballet world by holding more auditions and mentoring young, culturally diverse dancers. She said that back before the Civil Rights Movement, and even now, minorities are underrepresented in dance, particularly in ballet.
Mitchell is an activist artist who seeks a more inclusive ballet for the 21st century, Dixon said.
Jenks said that after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Mitchell went back to Harlem in New York City, where he was from, and formed the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Jenks said that Mitchell’s goal is to foster more interest and engagement in dance, particularly ballet.
“Arthur Mitchell has broken many barriers for all ethnicities to be a part of the world of dance, and this lecture will allow him to tell his story in his own words,” Jenks said.
Dixon said that besides Mitchell speaking about his life and career, he will answer questions from the audience.
“I am extremely excited that my students will get to be up close and personal with someone with such a great legacy in the dance world,” Dixon said.
Mitchell’s lecture will be at 3 p.m. on Friday at the Barnett Theatre in Sullivant Hall and is open to the public. This event is sponsored by the OSU Department of Dance and the Ohio Arts Council.