Women of Color in Ballet

Go Misty Go! Misty Copeland is gaining widespread cultural fame after being the fist black ballerina to be named a Principal Dancer at the ABT American Ballet Theatre – one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the USA, if not the world.

Funnily enough, I first discovered Misty Copeland after Cap, from my boxing gym, told me about her, having seen her in one of her Under Armour campaigns. He spoke enthusiastically about her powerful, athletic body, and her great attitude. Score 1 for Under Armour and Misty, that campaign was clearly a great success!

The ballet world and beyond has been dazzled by Misty Copeland’s rise to fame—from the cover of dance magazines to a giant ad in my local Dick’s Sporting Goods, her face is everywhere.

Misty Copeland in one of her ads for Under Armour---simultaneously inspiring young dancers of color and reminding us what a strenuous sport ballet truly is. Misty Copeland in one of her ads for Under Armour—simultaneously inspiring young dancers of color and reminding us what a strenuous sport ballet truly is.

I’m a former ballerina, and I was one of the only minorities in a studio that was predominantly, overwhelmingly, white. Ballet, as a cultural sphere, is particularly exclusionary in a way that is both obvious (the high price of this “hobby”) and hard to pin down. Perhaps it’s the subtle, often insidious atmosphere of a discipline that prizes certain bodies and certain aesthetics above all others. In a medium so focused on the visual body, the importance of seeing role models who look like you cannot be overstated. Small wonder, then, that…

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2 comments

  1. I was subtly nudged out of ballet as soon as my age group reached pointe level. They didn’t even bother checking my feet to see if they were right for pointe shoes. I was too short and curvy to go much further, so no extra classes for me! Yup ballet is rough, but at least I had gymnastics and horseback riding to fall back on as a kid. Horseback riding was the best, they take anyone… Least judgemental sport I’ve ever been involved in!

    Liked by 1 person

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