Yesterday I was blessed to be in the presence of an absolute living legend. Ballet star and hero the African Americans everywhere, Arthur Mitchell, graced OSUdance with his presence, riveting tales, and remarkable story telling voice. I found myself in a magical trance as he spoke of dancing with ballet legends like Suzanne Farrell and Maria Tallcheif and travelling the globe along side his convenient pal George Balanchine, making art and making history. But suddenly, he made a statement that kicked me straight
out of my trance and into a mindset of awe and contemplation. As Mitchell casually stated that “Mr. Mandela called”, there was a palpable shift in energy in the Barnett to a hushed moment of respect. That’s when I realized, not only did Mitchell come to know ballet legends, he got to know world legends. He casually threw around names like Khrushchev and Mandela as if they were old pals. He broke boundaries in the Soviet Union, the United States, and South Africa. He did more than just travel the globe, he travelled through world history and witnessed things like the decrepit state of the USSR, things most people on this earth in 2016 can only conjure in their imaginations. And never once did he stop working to use his art to better his community. Just because he danced for one of the biggest ballet companies in the world and founded the extremely successful Dance Theater of Harlem, did not mean he ever considered himself above bringing up underprivileged youth through the art of movement. Just because he worked with top dogs and powerful players in world politics, did not mean he ever considered himself above doing things like bringing the world of ballet to usually disregarded inmates at juvenile penitentiaries. Mitchell dared to step further than anyone else, and he took that step in ballet slippers. He made me realize how important what I do is, which is often so difficult in a society that tends to value math and sciences and regard the arts as a faux profession. He made me realize that I should stop getting that sense of impending doom (aka the “what are you gonna do with that?” question) when people ask me my major. So, to dance majors and all artists alike, when someone asks you “what you’re gonna do with that”, tell them you’re going to change the world with art.