Dance: Classical Ballet with Soul

Taut and slender in black hiphuggers, Arthur Mitchell surveys rehearsals through rose-tinted rimless glasses. There is nothing rose-colored about his attitude, however. "Allen, you should be horsewhipped. We've done this step a thousand times. Virginia, you are dreaming. Establish what you want—you are the lead." To a male dancer in mid-pirouette, he shouts: "What's this, greasing your hair? I'm not having that grease onstage."

Yet no matter how cross or tough Mitchell becomes, there is not a murmur of complaint. "Mr. Mitchell is a tyrant," concedes Dancer William Scott, "but he is a...

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