Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Academy of Dance

Introducing Dance Media Live!: The Ultimate Live Class Series to Get You Through Quarantine

Since the dance world changed overnight due to COVID-19, we've been bringing you constant content on how our community is adapting to the pandemic—from following dancers who are #SocialDisDancing to asking the experts for tips on taking class at home.

Now, we're launching Dance Media Live!, a class series with everything from ballet to Pilates to cardio to jazz, featuring some of our favorite teachers.

So join us on Zoom, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-2 pm ET, beginning May 7. Classes are $10 each.

Sign up here, and see the full class schedule below:


Past classes:

June 23: Flexibility Training with the Flexistretcher

Joseph Miller, Courtesy Flexistretcher

Join Rein Short for a 60-minute stretch and strength class specifically designed to address the needs of the dancer using the Flexistretcher tool.

Sign up now.

July 21: Advanced Ballet with Christopher Hird

Frank Atura, courtesy Sarasota Ballet

Join the Sarasota Ballet's director of education, Christopher Hird, for an advanced ballet class focused on artistry.

Sign up now.

July 16: Ballet with Julianna Rubio Slager

Lana Kozol, Courtesy Ballet 5:8

Ballet 5:8 artistic director Julianna Rubio Slager will teach a ballet technique class with a focus on what she calls "the secrets to standout musicality."

Sign up here.

July 14: Advanced Ballet with Nick Mullikin

Courtesy Nashville Ballet

Join Nashville Ballet associate artistic director Nick Mullikin for an advanced ballet class and Q&A about the company.

Sign up here.

July 9: Advanced Contemporary/Modern with Erin Thompson

Randy Karels, courtesy Erin Thompson

Bessie award-winning dancer Erin Thompson will teach an advanced contemporary/modern class including floorwork, standing warm-ups and phrase work—all redesigned for the home space.

Sign up here.

July 2: Advanced Hip Hop with Dance Labs

Misty Matthews, Courtesy Dance Labs

Join Dance Labs faculty member Mckinley Hawkes for a high-energy advanced hip hop class. The class will include a warm up and a fun, musical combination.

Sign up here.

June 30: Technique and Conditioning with Alyssa Beasley

Chasity Strickland/YOUnique Photography, Courtesy Beasley

Join Alyssa Beasley, regional director of Fusion National Dance Competition, for a technique-inspired conditioning and stretching class.

Sign up now.

June 18: Movement as Medicine with Erica Hornthal

Mindy Garfinkle Photography

Erica Hornthal, dance/movement therapist and professional counselor, will lead a guided movement meditation designed to reduce stress and prioritize self care.

Sign up here.

June 16: Advanced Ballet and Q&A with José Carayol

Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Academy of Dance

Join José Carayol, head of the Joffrey Academy of Dance's studio company and trainee program, for an advanced ballet class and Q&A.

Sign up here.

June 11: Improv Flow with Savea Kagan

Courtesy Kagan

Degas Dance Studio faculty member Savea Kagan will teach an improv flow class, a guided exploration that encourages dancers to take risks, let go, and get out of their habitual ways of moving.

Sign up here.

June 4: Contemporary Jazz with Natalie Stys

En Lin, Courtesy Stys

Natalie Stys, a New York City-based dancer and choreographer, will teach a contemporary jazz class designed to push students to cultivate their artistic voice. Class will include a conditioning-focused warm-up, guided improvisations and a combination with influences from hip hop, jazz, ballet and theater.

Sign up here.

June 2: Ballet with Timour Bourtasenkov

Courtesy Cary Ballet Conservatory

Join Cary Ballet Conservatory faculty member and Youth America Grand Prix judge Timour Bourtasenkov for an advanced/pre-professional level ballet class.

Sign up here.

May 28: Intermediate Pilates Mat with Elizabeth Lowe Ahearn

Rob Ferrell, Courtesy Goucher

Elizabeth Lowe Ahearn, dance professor and founding director of the Pilates Center at Goucher College, will teach a Classical Pilates mat class designed to improve stretch, strength and control.

Sign up here.

May 26: Intermediate Contemporary with Melissa Rector

Sammi Pfieffer, Courtesy Koresh

Join Melissa Rector, assistant artistic director of Koresh Dance Company, for an intermediate contemporary class focused on groundedness, breath, body percussion, stylized gesture and quick transitions.

Sign up here.

May 21: Ballet with Philip Neal

Mike Munhall, Courtesy Patel Conservatory

Join Philip Neal, artistic director of Next Generation Ballet, for a ballet class focused on barre work. The former New York City Ballet dancer will focus on lightness and speed.

Sign up here.

May 19: Jazz and Q&A with Courtney Ortiz

Corey Rives, Courtesy Revel Dance Convention

Courtney Ortiz, owner of Impact Dance Adjudicators and a professional dancer, teacher and competition judge, will teach a jazz class designed for small spaces geared towards intermediate/advanced dancers and teachers. The class will be followed by a Q&A session with Ortiz, where participants can ask her advice on a professional dance career.

Sign up here.

May 14: The Dancer's Workout

Kathy Howard Portrait, Courtesy The Dancer's Workout

Join Jules Szabo, founder of The Dancer's Workout, for a dance fitness class targeted to dancers and incorporating ballet, jazz and contemporary dance.

Sign up here.

May 12: Cardio with Jaclyn Baker

Courtesy Baker

Professional dancer-turned-bodybuilder and International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Olympian Jaclyn Baker will lead a 30-minute cardio sweat session, focused on increasing stamina. Suitable for all fitness levels and ages.

Sign up here.

May 7: Improving Grand Allegro with Hiroto Saito

Courtesy Canada's Ballet Jörgen

Join Ballet Jörgen ballet master Hiroto Saito for a ballet barre designed to support your jumps—including a special strength-training session to help you build jumping power when you're not able to jump at home.

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From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

Lydia Abarca Mitchell, Arthur Mitchell's First Ballerina, Builds On Her Mentor's Legacy in Atlanta

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.


For more than 25 years, coaching at Ballethnic has been a lifeline back to Abarca Mitchell's days with DTH. She had a stellar career, both with the company and beyond, but left the stage at age 30 after an injury sustained performing in Dancin' on Broadway. Her husband's job transferred them to Atlanta, where she transitioned to a full-time job as a medical transcriptionist while raising a family. Now retired from her second career, Abarca Mitchell continues to forward Arthur Mitchell's legacy, not only through coaching but also by building community among DTH alumni and writing her memoirs—a fairy-tale story of a child who came from the Harlem public-housing projects and became a trailblazing Black ballerina.

Abarca Mitchell grew up during the 1950s and '60s, the oldest of seven in a tight-knit family. She always danced, taking cues from Hollywood figures until a fourth-grade teacher saw her talent and encouraged her to seek formal training. The family couldn't afford ballet lessons, but Abarca Mitchell earned a scholarship to attend The Juilliard School's Saturday youth program, and later the Harkness Ballet's professional training program. But for all of those ballet classes, Abarca Mitchell never had the opportunity to see or perform in a ballet production. She didn't understand the purpose behind ballet's tedious class exercises.

When the fast-growing Harkness Ballet moved its scholarship students to the June Taylor Studio on Broadway, Abarca Mitchell remembers hearing live drumming, clapping and laughter coming from the studio across the hall. It was a jazz class taught by Jaime Rogers, who'd played Loco in the West Side Story movie. Abarca Mitchell started sneaking into Rogers' classes.

When Harkness informed her that her scholarship was exclusively for ballet, Abarca Mitchell left the program. She saw no future for herself in the white-dominated ballet world, and focused on academics during her last two years of high school.

At 17, Abarca Mitchell met Arthur Mitchell. He had made history as the first Black principal dancer with New York City Ballet, which he had joined in 1955, and had just begun to shape what would become Dance Theatre of Harlem when he hired Abarca Mitchell in 1968. Within a month, she was back on pointe. Within two months, she was performing in Arthur Mitchell's Tones. "I didn't even know what ballet was until I was onstage," Abarca Mitchell says. "All of a sudden, it was my heart and soul."

Arthur Mitchell made sure his dancers saw NYCB perform, and subsequently brought Balanchine's Agon, Concerto Barocco and other NYCB works into the DTH repertoire. "Physically and emotionally, I felt the connection of jazz in Balanchine's choreography," Abarca Mitchell says. "His neoclassical style was just funky to me. I could totally relate."

For the first time, Abarca Mitchell danced with people who looked like her and shared the same aspirations, she says, with a leader who "saw us through his eyes of love and achievement."

In Abarca Mitchell's 30s, after a performing career that took her from DTH to the film version of The Wiz to Bob Fosse's Dancin' and beyond, her husband's job took their family to Atlanta. She soon connected with Gilreath and Waverly Lucas. The couple, also DTH alumni, were influenced by Arthur Mitchell's model when they founded Ballethnic, seeking to create access for dancers of all backgrounds to develop as classical dancers and perform a repertoire that represents the company's culturally diverse home city. Over time, Abarca Mitchell became a trusted advisor.

Abarca Mitchell goes in at least twice a year to coach Ballethnic's productions—such as Urban Nutcracker, set in Atlanta's historically Black Sweet Auburn neighborhood, and The Leopard Tale, which features the company's signature blend of classical pointe work with polyrhythmic dance forms of the African diaspora. These final rehearsals give Abarca Mitchell a way to fast-track the transfer of her mentor's values.

Two dancers in blue and black practice clothes and face masks, the woman in pointe shoes, pose together in a first arabesque tendu. Abarca Mitchell steps out of a mirrored pose as she adjusts the fingertips of the male dancer.

Lydia Abarca Mitchell works with Ballethnic's Calvin Gentry and Karla Tyson.

Courtesy Ballethnic Dance Company

She recalls that Arthur Mitchell taught his dancers to present themselves at their finest—to enter a room with their heads held high and shoulders back—and to dress, speak and walk with dignity and self-respect. He reminded them that they were pioneers and ambassadors for Blacks in ballet. As the company gained international stature—Abarca Mitchell was the first Black female ballerina to appear on the cover of Dance Magazine, in 1975—he insisted the dancers remain humble and in service to the greater mission. But he was also a taskmaster. "No nonsense, no excuses," Abarca Mitchell says. "There was no slack. If he was rehearsing something that you're not in, you'd better be on the side learning it."

"He didn't throw compliments around at all. You had to really kill yourself to get a smile from him." After a run-through, she says, "you didn't want to be singled out."

Abarca Mitchell takes a slightly different approach, though she doesn't compromise on the values her mentor instilled. When coaching large casts of all ages and different levels for Ballethnic, she has found ways to inspire people without tearing them down. She calls it a "tough love" approach.

"I've got to make them want to do it. I don't want to beat them into doing it," Abarca Mitchell says. "I tell them, 'You're here because you want to be, and because you auditioned and were accepted. Now, show me why I should keep you here.'"

"I tell them, 'I'm here to make sure you'll look good—you know: 'That looks fake. Let's make it look real. Think about what you're doing, so that it's not just a gesture.'"

Arthur Mitchell instilled this level of emotional honesty in his dancers, and it was key to the company's quick success. "We were bringing a thought forward," says Abarca Mitchell. "We were bringing a feeling forward, so that the audience could connect with us."

In addition to her position as rehearsal director for Ballethnic, Abarca Mitchell is today part of 152nd Street Black Ballet Legacy, a group of DTH alumni who seek to give voice to people responsible for the company's success in its early years. "It's incredible," she says, "how many people took something from DTH and applied it to their lives."

As Ballethnic prepares to co-host the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference and Festival in January 2022, Abarca Mitchell hopes to help strengthen the network of dance companies associated with Ballethnic, such as Memphis' Collage Dance Collective. "The dream is for all of us to collaborate with each other," she says, "so that it becomes more normal to see a Black ballerina, so it's not just a token appearance."

Today's young dancers face different challenges from what Abarca Mitchell faced. She finds that they're more easily distracted, and sometimes act entitled, because they don't know or appreciate how hard earlier Black ballerinas like herself worked to clear a path for them. But what she's passing on will benefit them, whether they choose to pursue dance careers or become doctors, lawyers, professors or something else entirely. "The principles are the same," she says. "Work for what you want, and you will achieve it."

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