Arthur Mitchell and Lincoln Kirstein

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Kirstein by Walker Evans

Arthur Mitchell attended the High School of Performing Arts in New York City, studying dance styles such as jazz, tap, and modern. Lincoln Kirstein, the co-founder of New York City Ballet along with George Balanchine, watched Mitchell’s high school graduation performance. Impressed by what he saw, Kirstein gave the School of American Ballet, New York City Ballet‘s affiliate school, enough funding to offer Mitchell a scholarship. Mitchell accepted, and in 1952, he began studying ballet at age 18. A mere three years later, Kirstein offered Mitchell a position in New York City Ballet, and he was promoted to principal dancer in 1962.

In 1969, following Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, Arthur Mitchell decided to form Dance Theatre of Harlem with the help of choreographer Karel Shook. In creating this new company, Mitchell relied on assistance from Balanchine and Kirstein. Mitchell had high standards when envisioning the future of Dance Theatre of Harlem. He claimed that the company “must stand as a ballet company….I will not lower my standards or betray the standards of the people who made Arthur Mitchell the ballet artist….I am giving the dancers the same chance Kirstein and Balanchine gave me.”

More about Lincoln Kirstein  

Lincoln Kirstein was an American writer, impresario, art connoisseur, philanthropist, and cultural figure in New York City, noted especially as co-founder of the New York City Ballet. In 1946, Balanchine and Kirstein founded the Ballet Society, which was renamed the New York City Ballet in 1948. In a letter from that year, Kirstein stated, “The only justification I have is to enable Balanchine to do exactly what he wants to do in the way he wants to do it.” Kirstein served as the company’s general director from 1946 until 1989. He developed and sustained the company with his organizing ability and fundraising for more than four decades. According to the New York Times, he was “an expert in many fields,” as he also organized art exhibits and lecture tours.


Lincoln Kirstein, Wikipedia

Aayushi Pramanik

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