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Arthur Mitchell, of the New York City Ballet, formed the 1969 Dance Theater of Harlem shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Inspired by the Civil Rights Era, he sought to create a community outreach program centered around the performance of dance and the arts. His opportunities as a child were afforded to those in the community that had no other means of learning and expressing the arts. It began simply with dance classes and Open House Nights in which the Dance Theater Company would perform along with guest artists as well as students. Over the next three decades, the school continued to receive rave reviews and expand. They performed internationally in cultural exchange initiatives sponsored by foreign countries and continuously tried new interpretations of older styles while composing original works. After Arthur Mitchell’s fiftieth year in the performing arts, he was inducted into the Museum of Dance and the Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney – Hall of Fame along with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. After the turn of the century, the school is still performing internationally, with a notable showing of “Firebird” in China that was sold-out repeatedly. The current ensemble dance director is Keith Saunders, after having joined the Company in 1975 and was trained by Mitchell, Karel Shook, and William Griffith ever since. In 1994, he became the assistant ballet master, then the master two years later, and in 2004 and since he has been the Dancing Through Barriers Director. Dancing Through Barriers is an international cultural outreach program that seeks to learn about and teach students from around the globe.

 

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