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Ballet Diversity: African Americans in Ballet

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This is about Sara Means dancing but it touch on roles seen in dance.




But I have to admit seeing Anthony Spaulding do von Rothbart in SFB Swan Lake was excellent and I prefer him over other dancers. , SFB however rotate the cast often for large production.

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  • Momof3darlings


  • julisha


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Just a tidbit of information. Yolanda Jordan might be another name to look up. She danced at San Francisco Ballet in the 90's. I'm not sure in what ranking capacity. And the lovely young lady who is currently at SFB, while still corp, was able to dance a soloist role in Symphonic Variations this year. We have our fingers crossed for more from her as her career continues to flourish.


If anyone else has names, please do share. I know that when my DD was younger, this was of utmost importance to us to find these names and put them with faces and stories. While I am no longer in search mode for her, she does her own searching now, I know that we have many younger parents here who would love to have this information to share so their children don't feel so alone in the journey. This just adds one more reason to my list of reasons that I always mention not only praising and valuing the best our country has to offer in terms of ballet, but also to expand our vision outside of NYC as well. And I mention that is all forums and threads, not simply this one.


I also found this post which outlays one person's feelings, which may go to some of the original post questions:

Broken Dreams


And for a more historical lesson: Classic Black

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Again many thanks, Momof3darlings for the listing. I shared it with my husband and with DD last night and we looked up these lovely artists to read their bios. Would it be possible to also add the contemporary ballet companies where AA ballerinas are also dancing, e.g. Cedar Lake, Alonzo King's LINES Ballet, and Complexions? DD saw Complexions on SYTYCD and was completely mesmerized. She wants to dance with Desmond Richardson! But don't we all? Are there other contemporary ballet companies with AA ballerinas? This might be another option for young dancers.

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Certainly Julisha! While our focus on this thread has been Classical Ballet and Classical Ballet Companies, it doesn't bother me to also list some whose focus is Contemporary Ballet since the Classical Training is required for that avenue also. If you have a read on those companies, please do share.

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Timely topic -- Misty Copeland, ABT soloist and a gorgeous African American dancer was interviewed last night on PBS's Tavis Smiley show:




She's one of my favorite dancers and it was an inspirational show to watch.


I expect that they'll post the video of her interview soon on the website.

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In terms of roles -- I've seen Carlos Acosta do a bit of everything, from gentle prince to Crown Prince Rudolf (two very different types of prince!)

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I saw Forces of Nature perform several dances at Paul Winter's Solstice concert in December. Most of the dancers appear to be AA. I was very impressed with their technique and wondered about their training backgrounds as it was clear by the beautiful ballet lines of some of the dancers that they'd had strong ballet training. If you check out their bios, you'll see a wide variety of paths to becoming a professional dancer.


The company lists ballet as one of the influences for their dances:

Forces of Nature utilizes a unique blend of performing arts, which includes contemporary modern dance, traditional West African dance, ballet, house and hip-hop forms as well as live and recorded music and the martial arts.


So, while they are not a contemporary ballet company, I'm mentioning them here because from what I saw on stage, ballet is certainly a strong influence in their works.

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This is very interesting.




It points out that the artistic directors have to make the change. It doesn't just happen

The lack of diversity has to do with the small applicant pool. Factors like high cost of classes and lack of highly visible role models keep more African Americans from choosing ballet to begin with.

Visibility is important. You need to see other dancers on stage like yourself.


I did always make it a point to give my daughter role models of AA dancers out there. And Misty was one since we were able to see her in the studio company before her contract with ABT. Alyisha McMillan story somehow make in my NJ paper, and I read her story.

Now I hope she can pass the torch on. A girl in her school walk up to her and say. What are you? She realize she was asking about her race, and then continue to say you usually do not see AA on stage.

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There's a thread over on Ballet Alert about Aesha Ash, who danced with NYCB:




There's an extract from an interview in Dance Magazine, which brings up some of the issues discussed earlier in the thread:


.... After seven years in the corps, she joined the Bejart Ballet Lausanne in Switzerland in hopes of finding better roles. "I actually stuck around [for so long] just because I was the only black female. I would see a handful of little black girls [who were studying at School of American Ballet] and tell myself I had to keep going for them. There were people who would stop me on the street and say, 'You're the sistah up there doing her thing. Alright.' I felt like I was on a mission," Ash says. "But I got tired of feeling different. I wanted to be looked at just for my art. I felt everything about me was so different--my body type, my curves, my hair, my skin color."


Ash recalls a particularly disquieting moment: "I remember one time we were working on Swan Lake and the woman who had come in to stage it told us, 'I don't want see any tan bodies on the stage.' Well, what am I supposed to do? I guess I'm the dirty swan. Everyone is putting powder on to get as white as possible. What am I supposed to do? Those little things just got to me more and more."


But even now with Bejart, Ash remains frustrated with the way she is often cast. "I have a soft side, but I'm always cast in stuff where there's all this fierce, raw energy. I'm so tired of hearing that this is me. It was like that at City Ballet, and here at Bejart I still get that," she says. "I'm not always this strong black woman on a mission. I don't always want to move my hips. OK, we can do that. Next. We can be soft also."

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Dance 212 is following a young AA ballet dancer doing the SAB summer intensive. I know she is not professional (YET) but it's very inspirational to my DD. The other profiled dancers are also very compelling and wonderful. The episodic series is very educational for newbie ballet parents like me to understand what an SI is and what a dancer experiences. As we've discussed, educatiing parents about the committment to ballet is critical.


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Thanks for sharing those julisha!

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