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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20 Responses

  1. chris123 says:

    Kevin wrote:
    “…affirmative action was created to make people judge fairly.”

    I think you are mistaken, Kevin. Equal Opportunity was created, when I was in grade school, to make people judge fairly.

    Affirmative Action was created, when I was in college, to say that it’s not possible to treat people equally when Equal Opportunity didn’t create the expected results.

    Diversity was created, in the last 20 years, when Affirmative Action didn’t create the expected results.

    The philosophy, and rules, will continue to be changed until the desired outcome occurs.

  2. Demo Graphic says:

    I still see good “energy” and continue to luv ya, Stacy.

  3. Jake says:

    Sorry for saying this but see isn’t 100% black. She looks more Latina…I was thinking she’d be darker but tan light-skinned women are getting a lot of attention nowadays

  4. Kevin H says:

    Black People had to create black dance groups to be included.
    affirmative action was created to make people judge fairly.
    Why is it considered unfair when black people demand, challenge,and expect justice.

  5. Bill Coleman says:

    The opening sentence of suggests that dancers should be chosen based on skin color. If someone is good enough to be a professional ballet dancer, why does their skin color matter?

  6. Pete says:

    And that is offensive because my rear-end was not even close to being big when I was fifteen.

  7. Stacy Davis says:

    Pete –

    Are you implying that all black women are fat and have “ghetto booties?” And are you asking me what my rear-end was like when I was 15 years old? That’s kind of disturbing.

  8. Stacy Davis says:

    Elise –

    Unfortunately, there is still lots of racial inequity, despite it being 2012.

  9. Stacy Davis says:

    Kenny –

    I obviously was not the type of candidate that the School of American Ballet was looking for at that time.

    Ignoring racism will not make it go away Kenny. When people ignore problems, they usually get worse…unless you don’t think racism is a problem – then I could see your logic.

    From my experience, as a dancer for more than 15 years, lots of African-American girls interested in ballet and dance as a whole. I’m interested in learning why they don’t go professional.

    …And I’m not sure how asking about diversity is racist. LOL

  10. Pete DePander says:

    Have you considered that perhaps you were rejected for being too fat? Ballerinas don’t typically have “ghetto booties”, after all.

  11. Stacy Davis says:

    Chris 123 – There are still much greater problems than the lack of black ballerinas. I just chose to highlight this issue.

  12. Stacy Davis says:

    Joe –

    I don’t think you read the full post. There are private African-American dance companies, which I named in the post.

    Also, when I auditioned, I didn’t feel like it was SAB’s job to make me feel welcome. I was saying how I felt – I was just 14 or 15 years old at the time, and I knew I didn’t belong there.

    And I didn’t say anything was wrong with having pale skin; that was your inference.

  13. Elise says:

    Enough with the racial profiling, Stacy. We are in 2012 for crissakes.

  14. Kenny says:

    Perhaps the author was simply not a good enough ballerina – but then she could not be racist (and pretend she’s not).

    Racism will go away when people stop noticing the difference, but this author insists on pointing out differences.

    Perhaps black girls just don’t have in general an interest in ballet, in sufficient quantities so as a few make it to the top. Perhaps their parents don’t encourage it in the same ratios that white parents to. But delving into such questions is beyond this author’s interest level in the subject.

    But go ahead Ms Davis – keep showing us how racist you are.

    I’d hope Hearst Commuications would not publish the rants of bigots, but then the author would complain that of prejudice.

  15. chris123 says:

    Imagine how ecstatic Martin Luther King Jr. would be if he visited the United States in 2012 and found out that the problems of discrimination and racism had been so completely resolved that columnists are reduced to writing articles bemoaning the lack of black ballerinas.

  16. G W Karver says:

    Lo Cator brings up an interesting question. Are whites elected to congress expected to represent ALL people in their area? When the black caucus meets, do they ever discuss what is best for the white population in their area? Are blacks elected to congress expected to represent ALL the people in their area? Or, is this another move to keep us divided and easier to conquer?

  17. Lo Cator says:

    I found 5 of them. How many do I need to win the prize?

    Ravin Wilkinson, Lauren Anderson, Aesha Ash, Misty Copeland and Tia Jimenez.

    Now you tell me where are the 5 white members of the Black Caucus.

  18. Joe says:

    Is there any sense of dignity in the black community? Any point at which they’ll create their own institutions worthy of outside attention? That inspire others to associate themselves with that institution? An institution with zero assistance from whites and governmental agencies?

    You received AN AUDITION, you are not entitled to feel welcome and your body shape is not going to be received as some novel “missing link” in dance programs. I also like your “pale skin” reference as if this were a bad thing. There wouldn’t have been anything worth attending without some “pale skin” involvement.

    Get some pride already.

  19. Filo says:

    I think all the black ballerinas are with all the white basketball players and the chinese NASCAR drivers………

  20. Dan Burry says:

    Good question. Another good question is where are the black …. and Hispanic, editors on the News Times editorial board? Shouldn’t that be easier to fix?