Arthur Mitchell (1934-2018) was the first black ballet dancer to achieve international stardom. He broke barriers as an iconic dancer with the New York City Ballet and as co-founder of Dance Theater of Harlem. His legacy will live on eternally in the numerous dancers for whom he blazed a path.
New York City Center is honored to have worked with Mr. Mitchell on his City Center Story, pictured here in our studios in July 2018.
“We didn’t know what the reaction was going to be. You must remember that this was 1957—before Dr. King, before civil rights. Mr. Balanchine saw what was going to happen in the world and he put it on stage.”
When George Balanchine’s modernist masterpiece Agon premiered at City Center on December 1, 1957, it left the audience euphoric and vaguely shell-shocked. “We knew we were part of history,” says Arthur Mitchell, who danced Agon’s climactic pas de deux with Diana Adams. “A lot of the rehearsals took place in the City Center studios. Mr. Balanchine was so adamant about where I would put my hand, how I would make her move. He made our skin colors part of the choreography. Diana and I felt very special, because we were getting Mr. Balanchine all to ourselves.”
Watch Arthur Mitchell and Diana Adams in the pas de deux from Agon:
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