Ballet Stars
Crystal Serrano and Jorge Andrés Villarini in Christopher Wheeldon's This Bitter Earth. Rachel Neville, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Crystal Serrano never envisioned someday joining Dance Theatre of Harlem, the company founded by Arthur Mitchell to show the beauty and uplift of classical ballet on dancers of all colors. Her career began with Sacramento Ballet, which she joined after one year in Pacific Northwest Ballet School's Professional Division, but her time there was cut short by illness. After recovering, she felt so worn down that she left dancing behind and enrolled at the University of Washington. But she soon realized she'd made a mistake. "I thought, what am I doing?" she recalls. "I had to dance." With a fresh perspective and renewed determination, Serrano took an apprenticeship with Oregon Ballet Theatre before landing a job with Ballet San Antonio, where she soon rose to soloist.

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Viral Videos

Today, April 4, marks the 51st anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. It's a date heavy with meaning and symbolism for Kevin Thomas and Marcellus Harper, the founding directors of Memphis-based Collage Dance Collective. King's death not only marked a turning point in the civil rights movement, but it inspired Arthur Mitchell to found Dance Theatre of Harlem, a company and school devoted to providing opportunities to dancers of color. Harper and Thomas, a former DTH principal, have helped carry on Mitchell's mission through Collage Dance Collective, a company that showcases black dancers and choreographers.

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News
New York Theatre Ballet in Richard Alston's The Seasons. Richard Termine, Courtesy NYTB.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.

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Ballet Careers
"With the recent passing of Mr. Mitchell, I feel an even greater responsibility to share and grow the vision he began," says longtime company member Lindsey Croop. "Art is both transformative and transcendent, and because of DTH, there is a place for everyone." Photo by Kyle Froman for Pointe.ne."

"Keep the rhythm going," calls Robert Garland, Dance Theatre of Harlem's resident choreographer, from the front of the studio. Five company women pulse through a series of syncopated pony steps, upright arabesque sissonnes and funky, Motown-inspired dance moves. It's an open rehearsal in early September, and the company is giving curious audience members a sneak peek at Garland's upcoming world premiere—one of several new works this season as DTH celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Founded in 1969 by former New York City Ballet principal Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, DTH was groundbreaking in its makeup of mostly African-American dancers, and its insistence that they could excel in ballet. "We were a bunch of dancers who had been told no, we couldn't do this, and Mr. Mitchell was giving us a chance to show that we could," says artistic director Virginia Johnson, a founding company member and former principal. "He was a very demanding taskmaster—he knew there was something very important to prove and that it was on us to prove it."

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Ballet Stars
Kyle Froman for Pointe

Not only is Daphne Lee a member of Dance Theatre of Harlem and a graduate student, but she's also a pageant queen who just finished her reign as Miss Black USA. Lee became involved in pageants to win scholarship money for school and promote cancer awareness. She's currently getting her MFA in dance at Hollins University through a low-residency program. "I'm always carrying a book," says Lee. She's also sure to keep her student ID with her. It works internationally, which can be helpful in getting student discounts on tour. Balancing her busy schedule isn't easy. That's why the most important item in Lee's dance bag is her planner. "I keep everything in here," she says.

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News
Major ballet companies are banding together for The Equity Project, to increase the presence of black dancers in ballet. Photo by Joseph Rodman, Courtesy DTH.

Twenty-one ballet organizations have come together to support the advancement of racial equity in professional ballet. They're all part of The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet, a new effort being led by Dance Theatre of Harlem, The International Association of Blacks in Dance and Dance/USA.

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News
Los Angeles Ballet's Tigran Sargsyan and Petra Conti. LAB opens their fall season this week with a mixed bill including two company premieres. Photo by Reed Hutchinson, Courtesy LAB.

Fall for Dance FestivalWonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.

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Editors' List: The Goods
Dance Theatre of Harlem's Alison Stroming in a Capezio leotard (via capezio.com)

There's a change in the air these past few weeks—is it fall? Not quite yet. More importantly, it's PUMPKIN SPICE SEASON. And now, the quintessentially autumnal flavor isn't just for lattes anymore. Dancewear companies are picking up on the trend, offering more and more pieces in rich, sweet orange shades. Behold, eight of our favorite pumpkin spice-inspired pieces for your dancing enjoyment.

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News
Arthur Mitchell and Diana Adams in George Balanchine's Agon. Photo courtesy DM Archives

Former New York City Ballet principal dancer and Dance Theatre of Harlem founder Arthur Mitchell passed away today in a Manhattan hospital. He was 84 years old.

Mitchell originated the role of Puck in Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo by Oleaga Photography, Courtesy DM Archives

As a leading dancer with NYCB in the 1950s and '60s, Mitchell became indelibly associated with two roles created on him by George Balanchine: the central pas de deux in Agon (1957) and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1962). Mitchell's performance of the athletic, entwining Agon pas de deux with Diana Adams—a white woman—caused a major stir during a moment in which America was rife with racial tension.

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Just for fun
Lauren Post unwinds by sewing pointe shoes in the tub. Photo via Instagram/@laurencpost

Let's face it. Dancers just do things differently. We can never walk down a grocery aisle—we have to tap. We can never simply pick something up we've dropped—without going into a penché. But it's not a bad thing. We love all the ways that dance bleeds into our daily lives.

Turns out the pros aren't ever really off-duty either. Here's how we caught them dancing through their downtime.

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Just for fun
Lauren Post unwinds by sewing pointe shoes in the tub. Photo via Instagram/@laurencpost

Let's face it. Dancers just do things differently. We can never walk down a grocery aisle—we have to tap. We can never simply pick something up we've dropped—without going into a penché. But it's not a bad thing. We love all the ways that dance bleeds into our daily lives.

Turns out the pros aren't ever really off-duty either. Here's how we caught them dancing through their downtime.

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Ballet Stars
Ingrid Silva in Return with Dance Theatre of Harlem. Photo by Rachel Neville, Courtesy DTH.

Dance Theatre of Harlem's vivacious Ingrid Silva is extending her efforts beyond the borders of the dance world. Last winter she founded EmpowHerNY, a platform that allows women from all over the world to connect and support one another by sharing their day-to-day lives. We touched base with Silva to learn all about her new initiative.

How did you come up with the idea for EmpowHerNY?

It started last December when I met my partner, Helya Mohammadian. She is the founder of Slick Chicks, a line of underwear for women with disabilities. We met while walking our Frenchies and we became very close friends. We both wanted to do something that would make an impact by giving voices to women and helping them achieve their goals. One day we were sitting at a beer garden with our dogs, and came up with the name and created the Instagram, and then all of these people found our account. As women, we haven't had space to have our voices heard for so long, and finally now everyone is breaking their shell and speaking out, so I'm very proud to be part of this movement, giving a voice to other women.

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