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May 4th marks the 6th anniversary of the passing of one of our community’s most beloved members, Kabby Mitchell, III. Kabby’s passing at the age of 60 signaled the end of an era. His signature laughter would be silenced in reality, while living on in our ears throughout eternity. Kabby was truly, one-of-a-kind! And while his physical presence has been missing for over half a decade, what has continued live on and thrive is his vision.

Dark skinned man dressed in black teaching a ballet class to young children
Kabby Mitchell rehearsing with Pacific Northwest Ballet young dancers in 1993. (Kurt Smith/Pacific Northwest Ballet)

In the months preceding his passing, Kabby was working diligently on a passion project. Becoming the first Black company member at Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1979 and maintaining his company status while excelling to the rank of soloist, Kabby was also committed to his Pacific Northwest community. In addition to being a star dancer, Kabby was also a scholar. His love for African American studies, combined with his MFA in Dance from Iowa University, led him to become one of the most popular professors at Evergreen State College. His passion for African history and dance combined to create his legacy project, the Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center whose mission is to provide the youth of Tacoma, particularly Black and Indigenous youth of color in the historic Hilltop Community, with opportunities to achieve artistic excellence through culturally relevant pre-professional dance training, community events, and classes in the performing arts.

Thankfully, Kabby shared his vision and partnership in developing T.U.P.A.C. with his longtime friend and colleague Klair Etheridge, whose background and history in arts, entertainment, and dance, served to shape a vision that would become a living legacy. Klair, also a former dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, has lent her vast experience to T.U.P.A.C., becoming Executive Director and leading programs and administration since the launch which occurred just two months after Kabby’s passing.

In acknowledging the memory of our dear friend Kabby Mitchell, III, we invite our readers to check out the broad diversity of T.U.P.A.C. programs. Everything from elder arts and fitness programs to Pilates and of course dance camps!

T.U.P.A.C. is an always-stimulating contributor to the arts ecosystem in this Seattle/Tacoma region. Thanks to Kabby Mitchell’s vision, and the apt leadership of Klair Etheridge, we can all feel Kabby’s laughter through these programs, for generations to come.

Learn more about the Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center here and explore the many available programs. Support these programs in honor of Kabby’s memory. You can also check out more about Kabby Mitchell, III through the inaugural season of Crosscut’s Black Arts Legacies, which launches a new season this week!


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