Black History: Let me dance!

by Deanna Maria R.

Facing challenges in today’s world is difficult for most of us, but what if you were told that due to the color of your skin you could not fulfil your passion and dream to dance? Virginia Johnson, who graduated from the Washington school of ballet, was told just that. The director of the school came to her, praising her for her passion and skill in the art of ballet but ultimately dashing her dream of becoming a Ballerina saying, ‘You’ll never be a ballerina because of the color of your skin’. She didn’t listen. Instead, she became a pioneer in the history of black ballet dancers.

Arthur Mitchell, in 1968, following the death of Martin Luther King, set up a dance company for black people in the USA, specifically Harlem. Principle dancer for the New York city ballet, and the first black person to achieve that level, he looked around and saw that people in Harlem had no opportunities to achieve their dreams of dance, just because of their skin color. Children from Harlem, who once had no future due to failing schools and poverty, were given hope through Arthur Mitchell and his love of dance. Hoping to give these children a foundation to draw on, he created the Dance Theater of Harlem. Starting out with only 30 children and two dancers, Arthur Mitchell’s name is now synonymous with the word ballet. His drive, passion and endurance made the school and ballet dancing what it is today.