The Swans of Harlem By Karen Valby

  • Narrated by: Karlya Shelton-Benjamin, Sheila Rohan, Lydia Abarca Mitchell, Marcia Lynn Sells, Khadija Tariyan McKinney G., January LaVoy
  • Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
  • Release date: 04-30-24

The Swans of Harlem By Karen Valby AudioBook summary

A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK • The forgotten story of a pioneering group of five Black ballerinas and their fifty-year sisterhood, a legacy erased from history—until now.

“This is the kind of history I wish I learned as a child dreaming of the stage!”—Misty Copeland, author of Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy

“Utterly absorbing, flawlessly-researched…Vibrant, propulsive, and inspiring, The Swans of Harlem is a richly drawn portrait of five courageous women whose contributions have been silenced for too long!”—Tia Williams, author of A Love Song for Ricki Wilde

At the height of the Civil Rights movement, Lydia Abarca was a Black prima ballerina with a major international dance company—the Dance Theatre of Harlem, a troupe of women and men who became each other’s chosen family. She was the first Black company ballerina on the cover of Dance magazine, an Essence cover star; she was cast in The Wiz and in a Bob Fosse production on Broadway. She performed in some of ballet’s most iconic works with other trailblazing ballerinas, including the young women who became her closest friends—founding Dance Theatre of Harlem members Gayle McKinney-Griffith and Sheila Rohan, as well as first-generation dancers Karlya Shelton and Marcia Sells.

These Swans of Harlem performed for the Queen of England, Mick Jagger, and Stevie Wonder, on the same bill as Josephine Baker, at the White House, and beyond. But decades later there was almost no record of their groundbreaking history to be found. Out of a sisterhood that had grown even deeper with the years, these Swans joined forces again—to share their story with the world.


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