DALLAS (SMU) – Dancer, choreographer, and educator Arthur Mitchell, the co-founder and artistic director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, will present a public talk at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts at 1 p.m. on May 15 in O’Donnell Hall, Room 2130 in the Owen Arts Center. Mitchell will be in Dallas to receive an honorary Doctor of Arts from SMU at its 94th commencement on May 16.
“A Conversation with Arthur Mitchell” will open with a short video by Dance Theatre of Harlem dancer/choreographer Robert Garland about Mitchell’s founding of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Mitchell will then be joined onstage by Dr. Shelley Berg, Professor of Dance, and Dr. Maria Dixon, Assistant Professor of Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, for a conversation about his life and work, followed by a Q & A with the audience. The event is free and open to the public.
“We are thrilled to have Arthur Mitchell on campus again,” said Dr. Berg. “We presented his landmark work Holberg Suite at our Spring Dance Concert in early April, and he spent two weeks generously giving of his time to help rehearse our students. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Mitchell’s 75th birthday, making it a fitting time to honor one of the legends of the dance world. We are delighted to present this event in conjunction with his honorary doctorate award by SMU.”
Mitchell is a pivotal figure in the world of dance, as well as an agent for social change. His Dance Theatre of Harlem is a multicultural ballet company of international renown that has broken barriers around the world. After studying at the School of American Ballet, Mitchell became the first African-American male to be a permanent member and principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. In his 15 years with the company, Mitchell created seminal roles in ballets created by master choreographer George Balanchine, including principal roles in Agon and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, Mitchell resolved to provide opportunities for the children of Harlem and co-founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Over the years, Mitchell and his dancers have served as cultural ambassadors and received worldwide acclaim. In 1988, DTH was the first ballet company invited by the U.S. Information Agency to perform in the Soviet Union. The company traveled throughout Europe and became the first African-American company to perform on the stage of the Royal Opera House in London.
In 1992, at the request of Nelson Mandela, DTH performed and taught for six weeks in South Africa, then still in the grip of apartheid. The performances there gave rise to a new initiative for the company, Dancing Through Barriers, a program that takes classical ballet to schools and universities across the nation.
Mitchell continues to devote himself tirelessly to training and mentoring dancers and teachers, as well as serving as a champion of learning and education through the arts. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Award for Distinguished Service from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Kennedy Center Honor.
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