Dance Theatre of Harlem Turns 50, Honors Arthur Mitchell’s Legacy

Dance Theatre of Harlem Turns 50, Honors Arthur Mitchell’s Legacy

Dance Theatre of Harlem turns 50 this year — a monumental anniversary made bittersweet by the death of the organization’s director, Arthur Mitchell, in September.

Founded on Feb. 11, 1969, by Mitchell and Karel Shook in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dance Theatre of Harlem was originally conceived of by Mitchell as a school where children of color could learn classical ballet.

Arthur Mitchell and the Dance Theatre of Harlem company. Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Mitchell first operated Dance Theatre of Harlem out of a small garage in Harlem and quickly discovered a student body that was hungry for the art. Eventually, he drew from these dancers to form the ballet company that carries on his legacy today.

Next week, Dance Theatre of Harlem will pay tribute to this legacy with a six-day celebration of its founders. Programming kicks off on Feb. 10 with a “Founders’ Day” matinee at Dance Theatre of Harlem and concludes with a lecture featuring the company and its students on Feb. 16 at the Apollo.

Arthur Mitchell and the Dance Theatre of Harlem company at the Guggenheim. Photo: Martha Swope.

The anniversary celebration supplements the company’s countrywide tour, which includes its popular homecoming season at New York City Center.

Top Image: Arthur Mitchell. Courtesy of Sharon Perry.