This article argues that a group of young African Americans in the 1940s and 1950s used ballet as a means of crossing racial and class barriers of an art form in which few blacks had until then participated. Founded in 1946 by white choreographer Joseph Rickard (1918–1994), the First Negro Classic Ballet was one of the first African American ballet companies in the country's history and the first black ballet company known to last over a decade. With the goal of multiethnic cooperation in the arts, the company created a series of original “dance-dramas,” several with musical scores by resident composer Claudius Wilson, to perform for white and black audiences in venues throughout Southern and Northern California during the postwar era.

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