Source: A Walk Through Harlem
Funding for the VITAL/Ready to Teach collection was secured through the United States Department of Education under the Ready to Teach Program.
This video segment from A Walk Through Harlem features Arthur Mitchell, the artistic director and former dancer who founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem. In 1968, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King had a profound impact upon Miller who decided to return to his old neighborhood to teach dance, thinking the discipline, focus and technique would energize African American children in their everyday lives. Often considered to be an excellent classical ballet dancer, Mitchell was also thought of as an exception to the rule. He believed, however, given the opportunity, African American dancers could also excel in classical ballet. The school now has more than 1000 young people of diverse ethnic backgrounds and cultures.
Culture, art, dance, American history, African American history
The following Frame, Focus and Follow-up suggestions are best suited for middle school students using this video in an English language arts or social studies lesson. Be sure to modify the questions to meet your students' instructional needs.
What is Frame, Focus and Follow-up?
Frame (ELA) Does "culture" always pertain to racial and ethnic groups? For example, does the dance world have a culture? What are the values there? Can you think of other "worlds" and their cultures?
Focus (ELA) While watching the segment, note what values are part of being a dancer at the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Follow Up (ELA) What behaviors does Mitchell value for young people? How do you know this? How does knowing what he values for the Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers help you understand the theater company? Can you apply this understanding to racial, ethnic, religious, gender-based, and other groups and their values? If these values are presented in a written or visual text, how can you better understand the content?
Frame (SS) In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. In 1968, he was assassinated. What impact did Dr. King have on American attitudes and values?
Focus (SS) What event inspired Arthur Mitchell to create the Dance Theatre of Harlem?
Follow Up (SS) The creation of the Dance Theatre of Harlem helped break down barriers for African Americans in the world of dance. What other barriers were challenged and changed during the civil rights and post-civil rights era? What other groups benefited from changes in attitudes, practices and behaviors in American society? In your opinion, are there still attitudes or behaviors that need to be changed?
DAVID: We’re on 152nd Street near Washington Heights at the Dance Theatre of Harlem with Arthur Mitchell who is truly one of the great ballet dancers in the world, one of the great choreographers and one of the great artistic directors of our time. Arthur, it is a pleasure.
ARTHUR: Well thank you very much, David. Thank you for that. Hi. How, are you Barry, pleasure to meet you.
DAVID: Dance Theatre of Harlem. What is it? Why did you create it and when?
ARTHUR: Ok. Dance Theatre is a school and company of the classical ballet, neo-classical style. Following the footsteps of what I was taught at George Balachine’s New York City Ballet. And with the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968, I felt it was very important that I come back to my community and do what Ican do well which is teach dance. And I felt that the discipline, the focus, the technique that young people can learn from the arts would transcend into their everyday life. I’d be helping make better human beings.
DAVID: How pioneering was it that you became a great ballet dancer as a black man? Well, what was fascinating was that I was fortunate enough to work with two geniuses. Mr. George Balachine, Lincoln Kirstein and they gave me an opportunity. And they were like my surrogate dads so they instilled a sort of standards in me and that I will not relinquish. There was a perception that black people could not do classical ballet, their bodies were not fit for it and when I got into New York City Ballet, they said, “Oh, you’re an exception.” I said, “No, I had the opportunity.” So rather than argue, best thing to do would be provide the opportunities, make a company and a school so people could see that given the opportunity, anyone can excel. This is the neighborhood that I came from. I was born in this area, I grew up in this area so I’ve come back. When we started this, it was two dancers and thirty children. We have approximately 1000 youngsters in this school right now. Sixty percent come from the community, but we bring them from around the world, wherever we go. We speak all languages and as we travel around the world, I give scholarships to young people so they can study here and take it back to their community and raised the level there.
DAVID: How fufilling has this all been for Arthur Mitchell?
ARTHUR: When I go home at night, I can sleep I can rest and I know I’ve given back something and when I get those human emotions when I’m a little depressed, I look at our three year olds and I know why I’m doing it.
DAVID: And will you dance again Arthur?
ARTHUR: We don’t want to destroy the myth.
Academic standards correlations on Teachers' Domain use the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) database of state and national standards, provided to NSDL projects courtesy of JES & Co.
We assign reference terms to each statement within a standards document and to each media resource, and correlations are based upon matches of these terms for a given grade band. If a particular standards document of interest to you is not displayed yet, it most likely has not yet been processed by ASN or by Teachers' Domain. We will be adding social studies and arts correlations over the coming year, and also will be increasing the specificity of alignment.