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The swans of Harlem : five Black ballerinas, fifty years of sisterhood, and the reclamation of their groundbreaking history / Karen Valby.

Valby, Karen (author.).

"The forgotten story of a pioneering group of five Black ballerinas, the first principals in the Dance Theatre of Harlem, who traveled the world as highly celebrated stars in their field and whose legacy was erased from history until now. At the height of the Civil Rights movement, Lydia Abarça was a Black prima ballerina with a major international dance company-the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She was the first Black ballerina on the cover of Dance magazine, an Essence cover star, cast in The Wiz and on Broadway with Bob Fosse. She performed in some of ballet's most iconic works with her closest friends-founding members of the company, the Swans of Harlem, Gayle McKinney, Sheila Rohan, Marcia Sells, and Karlya Shelton-for the Queen of England and Mick Jagger, with Josephine Baker, at the White House, and beyond. Some forty years later, when Lydia's granddaughter wanted to show her own ballet class evidence of her grandmother's success, she found almost none, but for some yellowing photographs and programs in the family basement. Lydia had struggled for years to reckon with the erasure of her success, as all the Swans had. Still united as sisters in the present, they decided it was time to share their story themselves. Captivating, rich in vivid detail and character, and steeped in the glamor and grit of professional ballet, The Swans of Harlem is a riveting account of five extraordinarily accomplished women, a celebration of their historic careers, and a window into the robust history of Black ballet, hidden for too long"-- Provided by publisher.

Record details

  • ISBN: 9780593317525
  • ISBN: 0593317521
  • Physical Description: 292 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
  • Edition: First edition.
  • Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, [2024]

Content descriptions

Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references (pages [263]-271) and index.
Subject: African American ballerinas > Biography.
Dance Theatre of Harlem > History.
Abarca, Lydia.
McKinney, Gayle.
Rohan, Sheila.
Sells, Marcia Lynn.
Shelton, Karlya.
Ballet > United States > History.

Available copies

  • 10 of 16 copies available at SPARK Libraries. (Show)
  • 1 of 1 copy available at Milton.


  • 2 current holds with 16 total copies.
Show Only Available Copies
Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date
Milton Public Library 792.809 VAL (Text) 33226001117078 MLTM New Non-Fiction Recently Returned -

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