“I love to partner,” says the great pioneering African American ballet dancer Arthur Mitchell who joined New York City Ballet in 1955.
In conversation he shares affectionate sound bites about the ballerinas he partnered when dancing for choreographer George Balanchine at New York City Ballet, 1955 – 1966.
On Allegra Kent: “Otherworldly. A real creature, there was nothing she couldn’t do. Mr. Balanchine said Allegra was his greatest dancer … only he couldn’t control her.”
Violette Verdy: “The most musical.”
Jillana “very lyrical, so beautiful”; Tanaquil LeClercq: “a young colt, a true thoroughbred”; Melissa Hayden: “salt of the earth.”
Diana Adams, Mitchell’s significant other in “Agon”‘s brilliant pas de deux, shown in the photo at right, was “the personification of elegance, very patrician.”
Suzanne Farrell? “Suzanne and I joined [the company] together. Suzanne’s okay! So many of my first ballets for Balanchine, John Taras, Jacques d’Amboise, she was my partner.” Farrell became “the epitome of what Mr. B. wanted at that time in his life, but it was acquired. She started as an all-American girl.”
“Also wonderful” was Kay Mazzo. And Patricia McBride? “Patty was Patty.”
I recently interviewed the still ridiculously handsome, intelligent, and intense Arthur Mitchell for the Los Angeles Times. In my story, he describes his love of vaudeville and musicals, and the reality of being black in the ballet world of 1955. Read it here.