A photo of black ballerinas goes viral because it’s a sight of beauty
Black ballerinas gets the Internet going. Memphis’ Collage Dance Collective wished its followers a happy New Year on January 2 with a photo of five black ballerinas from the company. When Taji magazine reposted the photo it quickly went viral. Black — and other women of color — have long been underrepresented in the world of classical ballet. So to see black ballerinas, of all shades, with different hair textures, in skin tone leotards and ballet shoes, on pointe, is a celebration of hopefully where the industry intends to go.
The ballerinas from left to right are Brandye Lee, Daphne Lee, Kimberly Ho-Tsai, Nikki Taylor, and Luisa Cardoso ― dancers of African-American, French Guianese, and Brazilian descent. Photographer Andrew J. Breig made subtle nod to the racial biases in the dance world. The company’s marketing director, Shalishah Franklin, told Yahoo! Beauty that diversity in dance was imperative in 2017.
“We are deeply concerned by the underrepresentation of black ballerinas, not only in mainstream media, but in professional companies and ballet schools worldwide,” she said.“This pervasive lack of representation within our industry and our media is a continued call to action for our company, to inspire the growth and diversity of ballet through a repertoire of relevant choreography and world-class dancers representative of our community.”
Perhaps Misty Copeland’s visibility has caused a change of heart. Virginia Johnson, a founding member and artistic director of New York City’s famed Dance Theatre of Harlem, thinks race will no longer be a topic in dance in the next three to five years.
While that won’t likely be the case, we do hope more of these images will become the norm and not the exception. One thing for sure is that progress has been painfully slow, but ballerinas like Janet Collins, Debra Austin, Raven Wilkinson and others paved the way for hopefully a brighter future. Dance on, black girls. Dance on!