Mixing It Up

A closer look at cultural diversity

Where are the black ballerinas?


Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theater's first black female soloist in 20 years. / Photo contributed.

Black people are said to be great dancers, but American ballet companies lack black ballerinas.

Misty Copeland is the first black female American Ballet Theater soloist the company has had in 20 years.

I remember auditioning for a spot in the School of American Ballet’s summer program when I was still in high school. I was the only black girl there.

My body was remarkably different from the lanky, long-legged, pale-skinned students that were already attending the ballet school, affiliated with the New York City Ballet. The one girl that was accepted into the program from my audition also looked a lot like them.

The School of American Ballet was not a place where I felt welcomed, and obviously I didn’t make the cut.

I found an in depth New York Times article from 2007, which talked about the lack of “black swans” in the ballet companies around the country.

For many black ballerinas who want to go professional, they turn to Alvin Ailey or the Dance Theater of Harlem companies.

Fortunately for me, I was able to attend Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts in Connecticut, where I was still the only black student in my class, but there was a sprinkling of black and Asian students throughout the school. (There may have been other races, I just don’t remember.) But I did feel welcome.

As you can tell by my gig at the Connecticut Post, I didn’t go pro. Why not? I think I just became less interested in ballet and more interested in the sports that were being offered at my high school.

Here is a video about Misty Copeland.

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