Harlem-born Arthur Mitchell, the first African-American star of the New York City Ballet and the founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, has changed the face of American dance by carving out a place for African American dancers in classical ballet. This specially curated evening, in which he is joined by friends old and new for a film screening and panel discussion exploring his career as a performer, celebrates the arrival of his archive at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Retrospective of an Artist: Arthur Mitchell on Film
A film montage chronicling the life and career of Mr. Mitchell, including his time with the New York City Ballet, on Broadway, and as director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. This film was produced by Gillian Lipton, Project Director, The Arthur Mitchell Project, and Robert Branch, Columbia University Office of Communications video producer.
Carmen de Lavallade has had an unparalleled career in dance, theater, film, and television beginning in her hometown of Los Angeles performing with the Lester Horton Dance Theater. While in Los Angeles, Lena Horne introduced the then seventeen-year-old de Lavallade to the filmmakers at 20th Century Fox where she appeared in four movies, including Carmen Jones. During the filming, she met Herbert Ross, who asked her and Alvin Ailey to appear as a featured dancer in the Broadway production of House of Flowers – where she first worked with Arthur Mitchell. From Broadway to the Metropolitan Opera, de Lavallade has performed on the world’s greatest stages and with such legendary artists as Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington, and Alvin Epstein. In her eighties and still performing with supreme grace and elegance, she is an icon in the truest sense of the word – inspiring generations of artists and audiences.
Allegra Kent, adjunct professor of dance at Barnard, is a legendary ballerina and muse of George Balanchine – who created "The Unanswered Question" section in Ivesiana on her, as well as leads in Bugaku, La Sonnambula, The Seven Deadly Sins, and other masterpieces and cast her in principal parts throughout his repertory – and of Joseph Cornell, who created boxes and collages with her image. She was a member of the original casts in Jerome Robbins's Dances at a Gathering and Dumbarton Oaks and was also cast by Robbins throughout his repertory. A native of California, where she studied with Carmelita Maracci and Bronislava Nijinska, she came to New York at fourteen as a scholarship student at the School of American Ballet. The following year, Balanchine invited her to join his company, where she danced for the next thirty years. During that time, she performed often with Arthur Mitchell. Kent is an author of critically acclaimed books, including her memoir, Once a Dancer. . . and her first book for children, Ballerina Swan. In 2009, she was a recipient of a Dance Magazine Award.
Kay Mazzo was born in Chicago, where she received early training before attending the first of three consecutive summer courses at the School of American Ballet at age twelve. She subsequently enrolled as a full-time student in 1959. Following performances with Jerome Robbins’ Ballets U.S.A., she was invited by George Balanchine in 1961 to join the New York City Ballet. She rose to soloist in 1965 and principal in 1968. Over the course of her nearly twenty-year career, she danced virtually every female role in NYCB’s repertoire and created parts in numerous new works by Balanchine and Robbins. Balanchine appointed her to the School of American Ballet’s faculty in 1982. She was named Coordinator of Curriculum in 1993 and Co-Chairman of Faculty in October 1997. She is a founding member of The George Balalnchine Trust.
Gillian Lipton, project manager and archivist at The Arthur Mitchell Project, works as a writer, dancer, teacher, and dramaturge of dance. She has taught in the Art and Public Policy Program at New York University and the Drama, Theatre, and Dance department at Queens College. She has collaborated on numerous performance projects and installations for the Museum of Modern Art and other venues internationally, and acted as dramaturge at Dance Theater Workshop (now New York Live Arts). A participant in the Mellon Postdoctoral Program in Dance Studies, she holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from NYU.
Lynn Garafola (moderator) is professor of dance and co-chair of the Barnard department of dance. A historian and critic, she is the author of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and Legacies of Twentieth-Century Dance, editor of José Limón: An Unfinished Memoir and other books, and curator of the New-York Historical Society’s exhibition Dance for a City: Fifty Years of the New York City Ballet, and several shows at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, including New York Story: Jerome Robbins and His World. She is currently working on a book about the choreographer Bronislava Nijinska.