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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Ballet Diversity: Microagressions and Diversity in Ballet

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Sydnee ♀️💕

Okay if you are not familiar with the lack of darkskin ballerinas in the ballet industry.... WHERE HAVE YOU BEEEENNNN. Even if your not in either categories I'd love to share my experiences with microoagression and unfair situations.

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Yes. There is unfortunately still not a lot of diversity in the ballet industry.  Please share your experiences. 

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, Sydnee. We're glad you found us. 

There's actually a lot of knowledge and experience here from and about ballet dancers and students of ballet from all ethnicities. There's a long-running and very important thread here:

Diversity: African Americans in Ballet

which includes knowledge and experience from dancers (and dance students) of colour, discussing the specific challenges and sharing strategies for change. You may be interested to read this and other threads and add your first-hand experience.

You could also click on the button at the top of this page to take you to our sister website, Ballet Alert, where there are many discussions about diversity in dance internationally.

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  • Momof3darlings changed the title to Ballerinas of color are you here?

Yes, welcome.  Our membership has many dancers of color in all ethnicities!   We also have been discussing this issue for many years.  We hope that you will join us and share your experiences.  So in answer to your question...."where have YOU been?"  And glad you are here!

Please take some time to read through the thread that Moderator Redbookish has linked to above, as well as these others.  Just to start, there are others as well.  

Diversity: Minorities in Ballet

Radical Reimaging of Ballet

Careers: Minorities

Minority Role models in Ballet

Challenges for Dancers of Color

Tights Colors

Tucking Under

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  • Momof3darlings changed the title to Microagressions and Diversity in Ballet
  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for opening this discussion!  It is truly an area where as an AA dance mom in the field of classical ballet with my 14yo DD, I can say I have heard and seen quite a few things.:-/

We live in a medium-size Southern coastal town (<100K population) where there are 4 studios which offer primarily classical ballet study. In each studio, she was the only student of color within her classes. I will share just 1 of our experiences with each:

Studio#1 - My daughter was told by one of her dance peers in class that "black girls cannot do ballet." Also, the girls (except 2) would leave her out of conversations, group party invites and other micro/macro aggressions. 

Studio#2 - The school's director decided to do a performance of "The Wizard of Oz" for spring recital. At the beginning of the show, she played a clip from the 1925 Wizard of Oz . The beginning of the video showed how Dorothy was transported to the Land of Oz in the cyclone scene. During the video, it shows a Black man with pronounced features (by makeup) being made to run across the sky as lightning hit his rear end. Also, the clip shows him in a patch of watermelons eating several of those around him.

Studio #3 - While waiting for my DD to finish her private class at this studio, a group of students were playing "What Scares You" in the studio just outside the waiting area. At first it was quite innocent - bees, spiders, the dark, etc. Then, one of the girls says loudly, "I'm scared of Black men and Mexican men." The girls laugh loudly when she says this in the group.

Needless, to say, I've had more conferences and discussions with directors and teachers over these past 4 years regarding these and other situations my DD and our family has been though at each one. We're now on #4 (and the last one for this area) - so far so good.

 Through all of this and more, my DD has not given up on her dream of dancing with a professional classical ballet company. It has given us the chance to call out and/or educate those whose mindset is still in the early 1900's regarding not only ballet but the talent and beauty of TRUE diversity. 

We have been able to find some resources on how the world of ballet is changing (slowly) so more AA ballet dancers would have opportunities within this community and educate those who are in director/leadership positions:





Edited by BebeJ
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Not AA or minority but here's a little fact. . https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/03/14/the-us-will-become-minority-white-in-2045-census-projects/  The US will shortly be a minority white nation.  (This is a Brookings Institution link)

And most kids under 18 are living in a minority white cohort. 

Beyond the important ethical and sad racist stuff going on, there is another point--smart companies know that to have a future audience, they need to make sure that their dancers reflect their population at large. 

I do agree with OP  (and AA moms do weigh in)  I don't see a lot of dark-skinned girls in major companies.

Precious Adams is with English National

Michaela De Prince is with Dutch National

Ashley Murphy is with Washington. 

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BebeJ - Not to downplay what you were saying at all, but the clip you are talking about was in the silent 1925 Wizard of Oz. I was immediately distressed and looked it up when I saw you mention the 1939 version because I couldn't remember those those blatantly racist scenes and was concerned that I - 1) didn't notice them and 2) allowed my children to watch it year after year. We were watching the 1939 version, not the terrible 1925 one. 

I do want to thank AA/minority parents who are sharing their stories. It makes me check my own behavior (it can be as simple as overlooking a potential problem) and helps me to have better informed discussions with my own children. I'm still shocked and saddened when I hear about bigotry still occurring so often, and at somewhere where a child should feel safe like at a dance studio. Every one of us needs to be vigilant and vocal every day to make a difference, in my opinion. 

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Thanks, 5678StarMom, for noting the correct version. I've made the correction to my original post.

Also, thank you for having conversations with your children and checking your own thoughts/actions in regards to racism. Bigotry/hate is a learned behavior and is perpetrated when parents refuse or deny there are problems or issues within society and teach their children to have the same behavior. I challenge those in the ballet world to be vocal when seeing and hearing behavior that would cause a child/adult to feel less than human just because of the color of their skin. As I always say, silence=support.


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Administrative hat on here: 

I won't allow us to separate dancers of color into dark skinned and light skinned in reference to companies on this thread.  I know that one particular well known Insta famous organization does this by only showing photographs of working darker skinned dancers on their Instagram page and only applauding ADs for employing "chocolate" dancers, but that brings us back into colorism within communities/ethnicities and overcoming ballet's lack of desire for brown bodies before 2006 vs. now should not be diluted from within.  (I only say before 2006 because in the threads above, we began to see small changes about that time and a few years before and after in terms of employment)

I have been told that DD had a blessed journey, she came into her company contract prior to Misty Copeland although not in a major company.  However, just this year, she was told that her 11 year journey was tainted because she did not pass the brown paper bag test which is an age old issue within many ethnicities of color.   So no, I won't allow us to "go there", the road needs to be open to applaud all African Americans in companies on this thread or for that matter dancers of color who may be bi-racial, male or female, dark, light or anything in between.  I encourage you to go back to your list, learningdance, and look a bit harder at the dancers in major companies that are African American but come in all the hues and ranges of skin color that we, as a people do.  While I know you intended no harm, it is just not a road of division we want to go down to continue to prove worth.   Olivia Boisson is still in NYCB right?  Major company right?  Erica Lall is still with ABT right as is Courtney Lavine?  etc. etc.  etc. etc. They deserve our attention as well.  

Thank you!  And let's move on in more productive way to discuss any Microagressions students may face and need to know which to deal with and which to overlook or let roll off, if any.

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Momof3darlimgs, thank you.  Well stated and much appreciated (from a biracial mom of a young DD of color).  

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  • Momof3darlings changed the title to Ballet Diversity: Microagressions and Diversity in Ballet

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