Legendary Ballet Company Continues Legacy Of Social Justice

Members of the Dance Theater of Harlem rehearse Swan Lake
Members of the Dance Theater of Harlem rehearse Swan Lake on the stage at City Center in New York City, Jan. 9, 1980. Lydia Abarca dances the role of the Swan Queen and Ronald Perry is the Prince. Dancers in background are unidentified. Suzanne Vlamis / Associated Press
Members of the Dance Theater of Harlem rehearse Swan Lake
Members of the Dance Theater of Harlem rehearse Swan Lake on the stage at City Center in New York City, Jan. 9, 1980. Lydia Abarca dances the role of the Swan Queen and Ronald Perry is the Prince. Dancers in background are unidentified. Suzanne Vlamis / Associated Press

Legendary Ballet Company Continues Legacy Of Social Justice

In the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, and spurred by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, dancer Arthur Mitchell was inspired to help the youth around him. 

Then Dance Theater of Harlem was born. 

Since 1969, the dance company has always sought to be inclusive, recruiting and training dancers of all colors and backgrounds and helping to break barriers in the arts. Nearly half a century later, Dance Theater of Harlem is still breaking those barriers, supporting and promoting female choreographers in a field dominated by men. 

With their new show, “System,” led by choreographer Francesca Harper, Dance Theater of Harlem addresses social justice issues in the Black Lives Matter era. 

Morning Shift talks to Virginia Johnson, art director of Dance Theater of Harlem, about the how the company continues Arthur Mitchell’s legacy today.