Racism in Ballet

Yep, Racism is still present in the ballet world. The ballet world is moving forward, only years behind the rest of society. Companies are not segregated like schools in the 50’s and 60’s; however, there are few African Americans in the Ballet World. Most of them dance at the African American companies, while very few dance elsewhere which makes the dynamics very similar to the 60’s with segregated schools.

I challenge you to look at the dancers in any professional ballet and tell me how many African American dancers there are. I bet there is less than five. Why is that?

Artistic Directors usually look over African American dancers for a variety of reasons. Michaela DePrince, a pre-professional ballet student who competed in the Youth America Grand Prix, was an African American girl striving for a place in a professional company. She feels that the ballet world has labeled black dancers as too powerful and not graceful;therefore, companies don’t want to hire them. In order to be noticed by companies she feels that she has “to work ten times harder than everyone else,” or companies will ignore her. From Ballet West, Joshua White is the only African American dancer in the company. Earlier this year he was denied the role of Napoleon in the ballet Cinderella because of his color. The Artistic Director, Adam Slute, felt that because Napoleon is made fun of in the ballet he did not want White to be the “butt of all the jokes.” This may seem heartfelt, but White says that it is the twenty-first century. People should not be focusing on the color of a dancers skin but on his or hers talent.


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