Tag: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

R.I.P. Dance Legend Arthur Mitchell, 84, Founder of the Dance Theater of Harlem

Arthur Mitchell in 1963. (Credit: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)

by Jennifer Dunning via nytimes.com

Arthur Mitchell, a charismatic dancer with New York City Ballet in the 1950s and ’60s and the founding director of the groundbreaking Dance Theater of Harlem, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 84. His death, at a hospital, was caused by complications of heart failure, said Juli Mills-Ross, a niece. He lived in Manhattan.

Mr. Mitchell, the first black ballet dancer to achieve international stardom, was one of the most popular dancers with New York City Ballet, where he danced from 1956 to 1968 and displayed a dazzling presence, superlative artistry and powerful sense of self.

That charisma served him well as the director of Dance Theater of Harlem, the nation’s first major black classical company, as it navigated its way through severe financial problems in recent decades and complex aesthetic questions about the relationship of black contemporary dancers to an 18th-century European art form.

Born in Harlem on March 27, 1934, Arthur Adam Mitchell Jr. was one of five children. His father was a building superintendent, and his mother, Willie Mae (Hearns) Mitchell, was a homemaker.

An avid social dancer all his life, Mr. Mitchell had his first exposure to formal training when a junior high school guidance counselor saw him dancing at a class party and suggested that he audition for the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan.

Mr. Mitchell worked so hard there that in stretching he tore his stomach muscles and was hospitalized. But he was soon performing with the school’s modern-dance ensemble and experimenting with his own choreography. He also performed in Europe and the United States with Donald McKayle (who died in April), Louis Johnson, Sophie Maslow and Anna Sokolow, and he played an angel in a 1952 revival of the Virgil Thomson-Gertrude Stein opera “Four Saints in Three Acts” in New York and Paris.

Mr. Mitchell was 18 when he began studying with Mr. Shook, a demanding ballet teacher who encouraged black dancers to train in classical dance. On his graduation from the High School of Performing Arts he was offered a modern-dance scholarship at Bennington College in Vermont and a ballet scholarship at the School of American Ballet in New York. He chose to study ballet, although there were almost no performing outlets for black dancers in the field.

Beneath Mr. Mitchell’s gleaming smile and sunny charm was a tenacity of belief and purpose that could be almost frightening. In Lincoln Kirstein, a founder with Balanchine of the City Ballet school and company, Mr. Mitchell found a similarly stubborn friend. To get into the company’s corps de ballet, Mr. Kirstein told him, he must dance like a principal.

During his student years, Mr. Mitchell performed in modern dance and on Broadway in “House of Flowers,” and he was on tour in Europe with the John Butler Dance Theater when the invitation came to join City Ballet for the 1955-56 season.

When asked in an interview with The New York Times in January what he considered his greatest achievement, he said, “That I actually bucked society, and an art form that was three, four hundred years old, and brought black people into it.”

His dancing in just two roles created for him by New York City Ballet founder and choreographer George Balanchine ensured him a place in American ballet history.

In the first, in “Agon,” a trailblazing masterwork of 20th-century ballet that had its premiere in 1957, Mr. Mitchell embodied the edgy energy of the piece in a difficult, central pas de deux that Balanchine choreographed for him and Diana Adams. In this duet, “Balanchine explored most fully the possibilities of linear design in two extraordinary supple and beautifully trained human bodies,” the dance historian and critic Lillian Moore wrote.

“Can you imagine the audacity to take an African-American and Diana Adams, the essence and purity of Caucasian dance, and to put them together on the stage?” he said. “Everybody was against him. He knew what he was going against, and he said, ‘You know my dear, this has got to be perfect.’ ”

Five years after “Agon,” Balanchine created the role of a lifetime for Mr. Mitchell as the high-flying, hard-dancing, naughty Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He danced the part, Walter Terry wrote, “as if he were Mercury subjected to a hotfoot.”

Mr. Mitchell would forever be identified with the role.

One of the last ballets Mr. Mitchell performed with City Ballet was Balanchine’s “Requiem Canticles,” a tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. created shortly after he was killed in 1968. Profoundly affected by the King assassination, Mr. Mitchell began to work toward establishing a school that would provide the children of Harlem with the kinds of opportunities he had had.

Mr. Mitchell, center, working with members of the Dance Theater of Harlem in 1997. He founded the company in 1969 with the dance teacher Karel Shook, a friend and longtime mentor. (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

He founded the Dance Theater of Harlem the next year with Karel Shook, a friend and longtime mentor. In the early 2000s, the company, along with its dance school, faced mounting debt, and it was forced to go on hiatus in 2004. But it returned to performance in reduced form in 2012 and now tours regularly and performs at City Center. The school today has more than 300 students.

Mr. Mitchell became artistic director emeritus of Dance Theater in 2011.

He returned to the company in August to oversee a production of “Tones II,” a restaging of one of his older ballets. It is to be performed in April, to commemorate Dance Theater’s 50th anniversary.

R.I.P. Don Hogan Charles, 79, Lauded Photographer of Civil Rights Era

The photographer Don Hogan Charles in New York in the late 1960s. Among his better-known photographs was one taken in 1964 of Malcolm X holding a rifle as he peered out the window of his Queens home. (Photo Credit: The New York Times)

by  via nytimes.com

Don Hogan Charles, who was the first black photographer to be hired by The New York Times, and who drew acclaim for his evocative shots of the civil rights movement and everyday life in New York, died on Dec. 15 in East Harlem. He was 79.

His niece Cherylann O’Garro, who announced the death, said his family did not yet know the cause.

In more than four decades at The Times, Mr. Charles photographed a wide range of subjects, from local hangouts to celebrities to fashion to the United Nations. But he may be best remembered for the work that earned him early acclaim: his photographs of key moments and figures of the civil rights era.

In 1964, he took a now-famous photograph, for Ebony magazine, of Malcolm X holding a rifle as he peered out of the window of his Queens home. In 1968, for The Times, he photographed Coretta Scott King, her gaze fixed in the distance, at the funeral of her husband, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Charles resisted being racially pigeonholed but also considered it a duty to cover the movement, said Chester Higgins, who joined The Times in 1975 as one of its few other black photographers.

“He felt that his responsibility was to get the story right, that the white reporters and white photographers were very limited,” Mr. Higgins, who retired in 2015, said in a telephone interview.

Even in New York, historically black neighborhoods like Harlem, where Mr. Charles lived, were often covered with little nuance, said James Estrin, a longtime staff photographer for The Times and an editor of the photojournalism blog Lens. But Mr. Charles, through his photography, provided readers a fuller portrait of life throughout those parts of the city, Mr. Estrin said.

“Few people on staff had the slightest idea what a large amount of New York was like,” he added. “He brought this reservoir of knowledge and experience of New York City.”

Malcolm X (Credit: Don Hogan Charles)

Exacting and deeply private, Mr. Charles came off as standoffish to some. But to others, especially many women, he was a supportive mentor.

“He’s going to give you the bear attitude, but if you look past that he was something else,” said Michelle Agins, who met Mr. Charles while she was a freelance photographer in Chicago and he was working in The Times’s bureau there.

The two reconnected when she joined The Times as a staff photographer in 1989.

“When you’re a new kid at The New York Times and you needed a big brother, he was all of that,” she said. “He was definitely the guy to have on your team. He wouldn’t let other people bully you.”

Mr. Charles took Ms. Agins under his wing, and she was not alone. “I’ve had many women photographers tell me that he stood up for them,” Mr. Estrin said.

That may be because Mr. Charles knew the hardships that came with belonging to a group that was underrepresented in the workplace.

At one Thanksgiving dinner decades ago, Ms. O’Garro said, he tearfully described the pain he felt on arriving at a New York City store for an assignment, only to be asked to come in through a back entrance. She added that while covering the civil rights movement in the South, he would often check the tailpipe of his vehicle for explosives.

Despite those obstacles, Mr. Charles went on to have a long career at The Times, covering subjects including celebrities like John Lennon and Muhammad Ali and New York institutions like the United Nations. In 1996, four of his photographs were included in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art on a century of photography from The Times.

Daniel James Charles (he later went by Donald or Don) was born in New York City on Sept. 9, 1938. His parents, James Charles and the former Elizabeth Ann Hogan, were immigrants from the Caribbean, Ms. O’Garro said.

After graduating from George Washington High School in Manhattan, he enrolled at the City College of New York as an engineering student before dropping out to pursue photography, although at the time it was just a hobby. He worked as a freelance photographer before joining The Times in 1964. He retired in 2007.

Mr. Charles never married and had no children. No immediate family members survive, though he was close with his three nieces and one nephew.

To read full, original article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/25/obituaries/don-hogan-charles-dead.html?_r=0