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Arthur Mitchell & Dance Theatre of Harlem


Arthur Mitchell, the first black male dancer with the New York City Ballet, had to transcend social attitudes to fulfill his vision to create the acclaimed Dance Theatre of Harlem. His story shows the power within an individual to overcome adversity. Firebird, based on the Russian folktale, has become the signature piece of his company.  Although the story is placed in a new place, culture and time. Lessons create mythical creatures and interpret them through dance, guide students to write cinquain poems which form a poetic structure for group dances, and identify and plan dance scenes from the “Firebird” folk tale to serve as a story dance form.  Transformation and Freedom & Oppression  are featured. 


Watch the video Starting Dance Theater of Harlem:

Watch the video Challenge of Starting a Ballet School:

For the extended Arthur Mitchell video interview with NVLP, please visit:

All videos, audio tracks, and artwork on this page are for educational use only and is not to be reproduced.

Video excerpt courtesy of The National Visionary Leadership Project (NVLP),, and the U.S. Library of Congress.  

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