Arthur Mitchell Joins New York City Ballet/ Raven Wilkinson Joins the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo New York City
In 1955 Mitchell made his debut as the second African American with the New York City Ballet (NYCB), performing in Western Symphony, after Lincoln Kirstein asked him to join the corps de ballet.
- Previously, Arthur Bell was the first black dancer to perform with New York City Ballet.
- At the age of 18, Mitchell was offered a scholarship to study at the School of American Ballet before joining the school’s affiliate company.
- His repertoire with NYCB included: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Nutcracker, Bugaku, Agon, Western Symphony, and Arcade.
- Mitchell was part of the original 1957 cast of Agon, performing the pas de deux created for him and Diana Adams. In 1968 the performance appeared on The Tonight Show. “Mitchell insisted that the contrast between the color of his skin and the color of the ballerina’s skin is part of the choreography, and that casting white men makes for a different ballet.” (http://www.dancemagazine.com/arthur-mitchell-talks-race-and-balanchine-2306982856.html)
- George Balanchine also created the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Mitchell; the ballet premiered on January 17, 1962.
- Videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5X6CHJl7ek&t=35s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXlSHfUOlZs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7sKrI5daZM
Raven Wilkinson Joins the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (New York City)
Raven Wilkinson was the first African American woman to receive a contract to dance full time with a major ballet company.
- Sergei Denham, director of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, bought the Swoboda School in 1951, giving Wilkinson an opportunity to audition for the troupe. Although she was light-skinned, acceptance into a ballet company was unlikely because of her race. Fellow ballet students also advised her not to seek a position. But, in 1954, Wilkinson auditioned for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She was rejected. On a second attempt, she was rejected once again. On her third try, in 1955, Denham informed her that she had been accepted on a six-week trial basis. Ballet Russe dancer Frederic Franklin gave the audition class and advised the company staff to accept Wilkinson. She was 20 years old.
- Her repertoire included: Les Sylphides, Ballet Imperial, Le Beau Danube, Capriccio Espagnol, Gaite Parisienne, Giselle, Graduation Ballet, Harlequinade, Swan Lake, and Variations Classiques.
Other Happenings in 1955
- Jan 19th First presidential news conference filmed for TV (Eisenhower)
- Mar 16th President Eisenhower upholds the use of atomic weapons in case of war
- Apr 10th Dr Jonas Salk successfully tests Polio vaccine
- Apr 15th US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
•May 31st US Supreme Court orders school integration “with all deliberate speed”
- Aug 12th President Eisenhower raises minimum wage from 75 cents to $1 an hour
•Jan 25th US & Panama sign canal treaty
- May 5th West Germany becomes a sovereign country recognized by countries like the US, •France, and the UK
•Aug 2nd USSR performs nuclear test
•Nov 2nd David Ben-Gurion forms Israeli government
Arts and Science
•Jan 7th Marian Anderson becomes 1st black singer to perform at Met in New York City
- Feb 24th 12th Golden Globes: On The Waterfront, Marlon Brando, & Judy Garland win
- Mar Jim Henson builds the first version of Kermit the Frog
•Mar 30th 27th Academy Awards – “On the Waterfront”, Marlon Brando & Grace Kelly win
•May 2nd Pulitzer prize awarded Tennessee Williams for (Cat on Hot Tin Roof)
•May 21st “House of Flowers” closes at Alvin Theater NYC after 165 performances
•Jun 23rd Walt Disney’s “Lady & the Tramp” released
•Jun 30th “Johnny Carson Show” debuts on CBS-TV
- Sep 15th Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is published in Paris
•Oct 1st “Honeymooners” premieres
•Oct 3rd “Captain Kangaroo” premieres on CBS-TV, Good Morning, Captain!
•Oct 3rd “Mickey Mouse Club” premieres
- Oct 26th First edition of “Village Voice” (NYC) published
Human and Civil Rights
- Feb 9th 60,000 non-white residents of the Sophiatown suburb of Johannesburg are forcibly evicted
- Mar 2nd Claudette Colvin refuses to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama
- June 26th The Freedom Charter of the anti-apartheid South African Congress Alliance is adopted at a Congress of the People in Kliptown
- Nov 5th Racial segregation is outlawed on trains and buses in interstate commerce in the US
- Dec 1st Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to move to the back of a Montgomery bus for a white passenger
- Dec 5th Historic bus boycott begins in Montgomery, Alabama
- Apt 14th The Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup for the 7th time
- May 13th Mickey Mantle hits 3 consecutive HRs of at least 463’
- Sep 19th Cubs slugger Ernie Banks hits record 5th grand slam of season