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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Welcome! to Diversity in Ballet

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We are excited to Welcome you to the forum for Parents of Ballet Dancers of Color.  We are opening this forum so that our Ballet trained Dancers of Color, their parents and those who teach them can discuss the different and sometimes difficulties that many dancers of color face in finding quality Classical Ballet training, embracing inclusion, and any different choices that may be faced braving what is a field that is becoming more welcoming, but also still has a way to go.  

All Parents of BALLET dancers of Color, Dancers of Color themselves, and Teachers of Dancers of Color are welcomed to post.  The general rules of this moderated forum apply here.  We discuss, we don't argue.  We work toward solutions, we also understand Ballet's limitations and are honest about them.  We understand that Dancers of Color are as varied as a field of flowers.  We come from all areas, all life situations, and all ethnic makeups.  One of the quickest ways to shut down discussion is to assume, we are all the same.  All for the wisdom of others, the first hand experiences of others and also allow for times when the issue may not be color but rather may be simply Ballet itself.  We will all hope to learn the differences.  

Welcome, enjoy and learn!

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  • Momof3darlings changed the title to Welcome! Parents of Ballet Dancers of Color
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Thank you for creating this space!

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  • Momof3darlings changed the title to Welcome! to Diversity in Ballet
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 9 months later...

I'm responding to this thread hoping to boost it in case there's discussion. I joined BT4D some years ago but hadn't discovered this thread until now. My dancer is going on 17 and the type of support she needs now, of course, is different from what she needed when first entering SI's and the deeper complexities of studying classical ballet. Am hoping to engage with more parents as it relates to the good, bad and indifferent of being a person of color in the ballet world or their parent.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Would you be willing to share what those differences are as a youth vs. teen, as they relate to supporting a POC in ballet?

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  • 9 months later...

I'm sorry I didn't see your response. A year later and very late, thank you for asking that.

The biggest difference in the type of support has been shifting the burden of speaking up from me to my dancer and the increase needed in the level of support from their school/company and their peers/colleagues.

 I think many younger dancers are already understanding how important their voice is. Before moving her to a ballet school, as a young dancer it was important that I speak up for my daughter revolved around things like picture day at the studio when the instructors would all want different hair styles. My daughter's hair obviously could not easily transition from a bun with a swoop to a regular bun to a hanging pony.  It was frustrating to explain this every year that either they needed to select one style or let the dancers wear their hair how they wanted. It's a little thing, but important because then your child is the one in the way of the cute hairstyle that everybody suddenly wants for the picture.

When she was 13 we began advocating for her to wear skin tone tights and pointe shoes for her variations and solos. Note that we had to advocate. She had terrible anxiety about asking the Creative Director if she could simply represent her own skin tone in a dance she was doing alone.

Finally, it seems many schools and companies are allowing that in auditions and within classrooms. But only 4 years ago they were not. Watching that process unfold has been rewarding but also it makes you think about the things dancers of color have to fight for and it's a bit ridiculous.

My daughter is used to all of this and can navigate most of it. Now, as a teen dancer who is about to take the journey of trainee and hopefully to company member one day, she's realizing that other Black dancers are still reluctant to speak up for those things that make them stand out. This is where outward support and vocal support from the schools and peers are needed.

She wears her hair in the long braids because that style allows her to shift with the needs of the school or company's demand better than her natural hair would. She's meeting other dancers who are afraid to wear braids as they feel the companies will pass on them for that alone. It's that fear that worries me. There's a level of second guessing that Black dancers are saddled with, nearly automatically based on outward appearance.

Although many companies have diversity statements and are saying they want more dancers of color, when you go to their websites you don't often see evidence of that in their company roster. Nor do you see that diversity represented in images they place on their walls. Which may sound small and even petty, but I recall walking one school that had photos of their alums who had gone on to dance for companies all around the lobby. There wasn't a single Black female there despite them clearly having Black female students through the years. It's not a knock on the school - they don't control if their dancers are selected for companies. But the narrative speaks loudly - sure study this discipline but don't expect to land on this wall.

If a Black female dancer is looking for herself among many companies she's hard pressed to find it. She may see a Black male. She may see one Black female. For the number of Black ballet dancers out there, the numbers within companies and quite frankly, ballet schools, is still very low. 

The support required is 95% emotional and mental. This is no different for any of us supporting our child in Ballet or any other profession, but the additional layers are there.



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