Arthur Mitchell

Arthur Mitchell (1994)
Duration: 00:27:47

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Themes: Sports and Entertainment |

Guests: Arthur Mitchell
Host : Darryl Wood [bio]Darryl Wood hosted the show for ten years from 1988 to 1998 under the title American Black Journal. His shows focused on the skills and talents of many of the nation's leading African-American business people.

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Producer : Tony Mottley

Summary: In this program, from 1994, host Darryl Wood interviews Arthur Mitchell, founder of the Dance Theater of Harlem. Mitchell was in Detroit to launch a youth dance program in conjunction with the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts.

The program was aimed at introducing children to the arts to expand their awareness of the world while providing them with a creative alternative to the conflict and violence that is all too common in so many urban neighborhoods. The interview is a valuable discussion of the arts as a key element of education and reducing youth violence.

Mitchell explains that it was ballet that gave his own life discipline and focus. "It changed my life," he says. "I know if I had not had the arts in my life, I would not be here talking to you." On a philosophical level, he considers dance "the first of all the art forms" because movement transcends even sound or language. Even animals, he says, communicate with posture and movement.

Although the Dance Theater of Harlem was created in 1968, Mitchell traces its origins to his efforts two years earlier helping Brazil establish a national dance company. However, was the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in the spring of 1968, which prompted him to think about what he could give back to his own community in Harlem. Mitchell decided that creating a dance company could help children find the discipline and direction he had found in the arts - regardless of whether they ever pursued a career in dance.

The goal of the dance company - and the residency program at Music Hall - was to show young people the importance, and the benefits, of having the arts in their lives. Many children, he said, turn to gangs and violence because they find a sense of belonging that nurtures their spiritual selves. The arts, Mitchell maintains, offer a nonviolent alternative. "No one's feeding their souls and that's what's got to be fed."