Black and Ballet? Why Not!

Hello, my name is Kennedy Fields and I'm currently a “African American ballerina” in training. Since the age of three, dancing became a passion of mine. As I grew older I studied various dance types but ballet became my  obsession. The tedious corrections given daily by teachers propelled me to become the best black ballerina I could possibly could be. The dance style ballet is known to be showcased dominantly by the white, a race I don't identify with. There are many famous dance companies with ballet pieces performed by white dancers, yet there aren’t many black ballerinas. For example; the familiar famous shows like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake don’t have a diverse set of performers. The black community of dancers is slowly growing but still fails in being showcased in big productions.

The following picture is an example of the many rules in executing a pirouette turn. A ballet education, has done a wonderful job in showing how ballet isn’t just twirling around in tutu’s.

Black dancers seeking to pursue the ballet craft weren’t able to in America as early as the twentieth century. There are beliefs the famous, George Balanchi started the discrimination.  George Balanchi is the choreographer of The Nutcracker and is the “Father of American ballet.” Besides his positive contributions to the dance world he also diminished it. Balanchi’s idea of proper “structure” for ballet didn’t mingle with “African American body features.” With research found in an article, It is factual that different races contribute to their body health. With that being said many excuses for blacks not to enter the study were gathered. Three factual rejects included: blacks have flat feet, leg limitations, and curved bodies. Although, these discriminants may sound absurd they meant a lot in ballet. As a part of the technical style some necessities require arched feet, straight backs, flat chests, etc. With these discriminants set it makes “black” ballerinas work twice as hard.

Since the twentieth century many of the beliefs about African American’s in ballet still exist. The pressure has eased from the young generations shoulders slightly from many people who really pushed away from ballet discrimination. A recent podcast interview, interviewed colored dancers sharing their first-hand experiences. All of their stories corroborate having one essential theme, struggling to make a career out of their loved art. Joan Myers is from Philadelphia and had her hopes crushed in her hometown right along Chestnut st. She was walking up and down the street seeking a ballet company she could audition for-but all gave her the same turn around. Joan Myers made success out of the fault in the ballet community by founding a black derived learning environment, Philadanco. Then there’s the famous Misty Copeland who changed the game for black girls all over. She has become America’s most famous ballerina of color. Her recent accomplishment has even made it to The New York Times. Misty has been promoted to a principle at the American Ballet Theatre. This means she will now be seen with lead roles in choreography. This is fantastic but the only concern is she’s the first African American female to become a principal ballerina, since its founding in 1939.

This is a picture of  ballerinas from American Ballet Theatre performing a trio. One also happens to be Misty Copeland. This was from opening night of their show in Brisbane, Australia called Three Masterpieces. Check out this page for more details.

Discrimination in an art ties to social issues. If social justice is something you believe in this should resonate with you. Different forms of Arts are meant to express the human creative skill. Skills can be mastered by anyone with practice, so why are colored dancers discriminated? There’s a difference if you don’t take a liking to one dancers style, but to not like them for a skin-deep reason is harsh. I believe if we don’t start seeing more diverse changes in the ballet profession, it will start to diminish. Young girls today need to see the diverse changes for the cycle to continue and right now there are very few heard of.

Check out my works cited!

Comments (3)

Briannie Matos (Student 2020)
Briannie Matos

This is really great Kennedy. I can see how passionate you are about this topic. It's also an interesting topic but it was a good choice. I know how you love dance and becoming of agent of change for it is awesome. I can't wait to see what you come up with next!

Amal Giknis (Teacher)
Amal Giknis

It's awesome that you picked a topic that is so personal for you, Kennedy. This is such an important issue and it's really shocking that the world of ballet is so racially segregated. I am eager to see how you will make a change for progress with this!

Mayah Gold (Student 2020)
Mayah Gold

Wow. Kennedy I have to say that this is amazing. I love everything about what you wrote. To start I think it is a great topic that goes unnoticed, and I love that you're addressing it. Second, the information is amazing and so thoroughly supported. And third, the photos that you put in are beautiful. Lastly, your post made me look forward with what you are going to do next! Awesome job!