'Dance Theatre of Harlem' honors late founder Arthur Mitchell at The Apollo

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- The Dance Theatre of Harlem found the perfect way to celebrate its 50th anniversary this week -- by returning to the Apollo Theater, where the group's founder, Arthur Mitchell, used to introduce school children to the magic of dance.

The Apollo was soon alive with the sounds of James Brown again, as the Dance Theatre of Harlem presented a lecture demonstration for elementary school children.

"You have to be a role model," said Robert Garland, director of the company's school and resident choreographer. "You have to set an example."

Garland is the keeper of the flame, lit by the late Arthur Mitchell, and he told the kids that.

"He was the first black male dancer of a major ballet company," Garland said.

Garland said Mitchell was a true pioneer, father figure and taskmaster.

"Mr. Mitchell always said you're representing something larger than yourself," he said. "Meaning your community, your culture."

Half a century after he founded this company, Mitchell's legacy is alive and well.

"They didn't let go of their dreams," student Mikaela Ferguson said.

The dancers pursue their dreams to inspire others to pursue theirs.

"If there's someone telling you you can't do something, then you can," Garland said. "Yes you can. Arthur Mitchell opened the door, and now they just need to walk through it."

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