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BookBrowse Reviews The Swans of Harlem by Karen Valby

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The Swans of Harlem

Five Black Ballerinas, Fifty Years of Sisterhood, and Their Reclamation of a Groundbreaking History

by Karen Valby

The Swans of Harlem by Karen Valby X
The Swans of Harlem by Karen Valby
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  • Published:
    Apr 2024, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Lyndal Martin
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The Swans of Harlem tells the stories of the early years of the Dance Theater of Harlem and its history-making young Black ballerinas.

Journalist Karen Valby's first book, The Swans of Harlem, introduces readers to the little-known history of the Dance Theater of Harlem, which was founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell. Using interviews and research from print archives, Valby deftly crafts information into a compelling narrative centered around the company's ballerinas. The fact that none of the names were familiar to me demonstrated the need for the book's existence. I really enjoy histories like this that focus intimately on a small group of people.

The Swans of Harlem opens shortly after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, a time when many people felt called to lift up Black communities. Arthur Mitchell answered that call with his decision to open a ballet school that cultivated the talents of Black dancers. He found initial interest but discovered that potential donors would often back out. Undeterred, he ...

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