Letter from the Editor,
The June 2015 Dance USA conference in Miami was serendipitous for many reasons. It was there I announced MoBBallet and met Bahia Ramos of the Knight Foundation, who on that very day decided to fund us. I met International Association of Blacks in Dance and Dance USA’s executive directors Denise Saunders Thompson and Amy Fitterer (in person). Later we went on to organize the first audition for female ballet dancers of color that took place that January. It was after my breakout session that I had the great fortunate to meet Ellen Walker the Executive Director of Pacific Northwest ballet.
Ellen Walker is a force, a delightful force of nature. She had such a passion to continue the conversation about diversity in ballet that a few days later I received a call from her. It was in that conversation that the dye was cast in passion, willfulness, humor and a love of Jane Austen. She was intent on understanding and making change. It wasn’t until January that I met PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal at the IABD Ballet audition. I found him to be curious and eager to learn and share. It was Boal and Joffrey Director Ashely Wheater that made me think that change was possible. These directors were young and forward thinking, they knew their were issues and they weren’t afraid to confront them, they were just trying to figure out the way.
Ellen and I knew we wanted todo something that moved the conversation forward, and aligned with what PNB was doing with the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) working with the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture Racial Equity Learning Cohorts. Enter stage left Donald Byrd. Mr Byrd is a dear, long time friend of mine, he is a mentor and the man who first asked my intellect to enter the studio. He has a keen appreciation for thinking dancers. Our history, and antics are to deep to go into here, but I will say that if I was going to Seattle there was no way that the Spectrum Dance Theater’s Artistic Director (and one of the most brilliant people know) was not going to be involved.
Beyond Ballet was the result. I had long been wanting to delve into the actual aesthetics of ballet and how that is reflected in the lack of diversity. It is a complicated conversation to have so we wanted a panel that could handle it. Donald and Peter were joined by Erica Edwards, former Joffrey Ballet dancer, Director of Community Engagement at The Joffrey Ballet; Kiyon Gaines, former PNB soloist and PNB School faculty member; and Andrea Long-Naidu, Former principal dancer with at Dance Theatre of Harlem and CityDance Conservatory ballet instructor. I moderated the panel and I am please to bring you the video in this month’s EZine.
Next we take a hard look—(A side eye) at the new dance phenomenon Hiplet and break down the reasons so many in the dance world are not as enthusiastic as the rest of the world when it shows up in our Instagram feed…
We review the new Jockey ad featuring Dutch National Ballet’s Michaela DePrince. The Show ‘em What’s Underneath takes an up close and personal look at the young dancer, her trials, triumphs and the power of hope.
Finally could we leave you without some inspiration? Well, we know that Michaela is enough but we went into the vault and pulled out some footage of Prima Virginia Johnson (now the Artistic Director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem) She was truly an incredible artist with some acting shops! We thought we would let her show the kids how it’s done.
Please enjoy! and subscribe or donate if you like what we are doing!!!