Ballet dance traces its origins to the fifteenth century, during the Italian Renaissance. The genre has since evolved into a popular concert dance in many countries such as Russia, France, United Kingdom, and the United States (“Dance Resources”). Each country integrates its culture into the dance, which has led to the dance developing variations depending on dancers’ origin. In the United States, discrimination and segregation subjects have been widely addressed. However, the defeat of Jim Crow laws and the civil rights movement’s accomplishment has not adequately prevented discrimination from penetrating the performing arts. The subtle racial divide explains why only a few African Americans have succeeded in classical ballet dance. Although ballet is a modern concert dance worldwide, people of color have not embraced the genre fully despite their athletic capabilities and passion for choreography.
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The African American representation in the ballet genre is scarce, although many Black people are fans of the art. My aunt started training me in ballet dance when I was five years old. By age 12, my friends told me I was a talented dancer and that I should consider pursuing a professional ballet career. However, I decided to focus on samba-reggae because I felt appreciated by the audience and colleague dancers. The Black pride movement of Salvador de Bahia invented the samba-reggae, which they used to express their identity and voice political concerns. For instance, dancers frequently engaged in political actions such as shutting down roads for a few hours to demonstrate the power of growing African communities.The samba-reggae events are common hunting spots for pickpockets, sex workers, police crossfire, and political songs entertainment (Scott 260). My parents and friends suspected that I had joined an illegal political lobby group because of the vices and negative reputation associated with Samba-reggae. Nevertheless, the genuine artists engage in none of the vices common in large orchestras. The members are supposed to dedicate several hours to master body movements and rhythm.
Success originates from a talent that you focus on developing. Three years ago, I met a high school friend who specialized in ballet. Since she often needed a dancing partner, I helped with her daily practice. She was quick to note that I must have trained with an expert previously because I was flexible and knew many classical movements. She encouraged me to accompany her to ballet auditions since one of the large orchestra companies could hire us. However, I met the high school friend a few months back at Beyoncé Knowles’ audition for the “Black Parade” song. She performed so well that Beyoncé recruited her to join her group. I wondered where she had learned the black dance from, considering that she was a classical ballet enthusiast. I decided to look for her after the auditions, and I was lucky to get her attention. Upon asking why she focused on African dance, she confided in me that she auditioned for many companies unsuccessfully. Besides, the companies that recruited her often engaged in racist jokes, such as the art is for whites only and that Blacks are slow learners.
I sympathized with her because I understood the frustrations that come with a flawed career. I also knew she deserved sympathy because ballet training is a lifetime commitment. For instance, Gomes (a black ballet dancer from France) associated her foot injury and depression stint in 2018 with her frustrations at Staatsballett’s. I had followed Gomes’ difficulties in Berlin, starting from being forced to wear makeup to conceal her race to the scathing racial accusations that led to the atmosphere of fear (Sánchez and Richthofen). I discovered that Gomes was an excellent ballet dancer, but the Berlin Company plans to cancel her contract because the new mistress prefers an orchestra composed of white dancers only (Sánchez and Richthofen). My aunt, who trained me in ballet dancing, also claimed that her mistress falsely accused her of not following the required rhythm, although she knew the mistress did not want to renew her contract due to skin color reasons. I encouraged my friend to pursue the Black dance style because she was talented. She was also remorseful of the years she wasted while training ballet and glad that Beyoncé recognized her talent.
Overall, ballet dance genre is a favorite choice for many people of color. Still, the high rate of discrimination and frustration of non-whites discourages talented dancers from joining choreography. Some of the Black professional ballet dancers, such as Gomes, claim to face many difficulties that hinder their career growth in the art. Cases of discrimination in ballet companies have attracted several activists groups that will fight for a change of the current orchestra rules. The misperception that classical ballet is exclusively for white dancers is outdated. Countries with miscellaneous population, such as France and the United States, allow more people of color to participate in professional dances. I hope that other countries with ballet limitations will also allow non-white dancers the freedom to participate in the choreography.
“Dance Resources: Dance Styles and History.” Queensborough Community College, 2021, Web.
Sánchez, Maria John and Luisa von Richthofen. “Berlin State Ballet Dancer Speaks Out About Racism.” DW, 2020, Web.
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Scott, Anna Beatrice. “Spectacle and Dancing Bodies That Matter: Or, If It Don’t Fit, Don’t Force It.” Meaning in Motion, edited by Jane C. Desmond, Duke University Press, 1997, pp. 259-268.