Pop Culture

Watch: Arthur Mitchell & DTH on "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" (1987)

The late pioneering dancer Arthur Mitchell was an icon in the dance world—as well as a touchstone in popular culture. Not only did he break boundaries at New York City Ballet, where he performed under Balanchine as a black male principal, but he also went on to co-found Dance Theatre of Harlem. But his international acclaim wasn't limited to the stage: Mitchell and DTH were featured in a special 1987 episode of "Mister Rogers Neighborhood," bringing ballet into living rooms across America.


Luckily, we were able to dig up the footage. Fast-forward to about 3:15 for the start of Mitchell's segment, which includes company rehearsal and classroom visits to two levels of students in DTH's school.

The whole 12 minutes is worth the watch, but don't miss these moments:

- Mitchell's pearl of wisdom as he explains the importance of technique class to Mister Rogers: "It's like a pianist must do the scales, everyday. You must practice these exercises everyday."

- Mister Rogers giving ballet a go. Is there anything he won't try? (P.S. His fifth position doesn't disappoint!)

- In DTH's library, Mister Rogers asks if Mitchell was always interested in dance and music. "More or less," he says, before casually explaining that he was admitted to kindergarten at age 3 because he was so passionate about learning.

- The seriously impressive young children rehearsing for their end-of-year recital.

If PBS has the stats, we're dying to know how much ballet enrollment increased after this episode aired. Regardless, Mitchell's mark on the dance world is indelible, and we love how this moment in time was preserved.

Broadway
Courtesy Macy's, Inc.

As you're prepping your Thanksgiving meal, why not throw in a dash of dance?

This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is stuffed (pun intended) with performances from four stellar Broadway shows, the Radio City Rockettes and students from three New York City dance institutions.

Tune in to NBC November 28 from 9 am to noon (in all time zones), or catch the rebroadcast at 2 pm (also in all time zones). Here's what's in store:

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Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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Rant & Rave
Sergei Polunin. Photo by British Broadcasting Corporation and Polunin Ltd., Courtesy Sundance Selects.

Last week, Variety reported that Sergei Polunin would reunite with the team behind Dancer for another documentary. "Where 'Dancer' looked at his whole life, family and influences," director Steven Cantor said, " 'Satori' will focus more squarely on his creative process as performer and, for the first time ever, choreographer." The title references a poorly received evening of work by the same name first presented by Polunin in 2017. (It recently toured to Moscow and St. Petersburg.)

I cannot be the only person wondering why we should care.

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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