So many exciting and encouraging things have been happening and we are pleased that in this E-Zine we can highlight some of the fruits of our labor. People always as me “Is this real, are companies really authentically looking to change? Are they seriously going to hire Black dancers?” To be quite frank, there are times when I can say wholeheartedly YES! and then there are times when I am just as skeptical as those who query. What I try to do is look for the evidence that the work is happening. Actions speak louder than words, and when I see things shifting, changing, when there are things that are happening that weren’t before…that is my evidence. People can talk until we are blue in the face but if our actions don’t reflect the dialogue what is the point?
Since it has been a while (admittedly too long–I’ll work on that) I wanted to share with you some of the “Evidence” I have gathered to indicate that things are indeed happening and that change “Soon come”.
Exhibit A: The Equity Project –Dance Theatre of Harlem, The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), and Dance/USA are pleased to announce The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet, a three-year partnership program to support the advancement of racial equity in professional ballet companies. The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet brings together a cohort of artistic and executive leaders from 21 large budget, professional ballet organizations for in-person meetings and coaching, with the purpose of increasing the presence of blacks in ballet in all areas of the industry. I am pleased to be a member of the Design and Facilitation team!
Exhibit B: There has been great forward motion on the tools of our trade. English National Ballet dancer Precious Adams announced that she would no longer be wearing pink tights and shoes, and Freed did a wonderful roll out of their Brown, Bronze, Espresso colored pointe shoes. It should be noted that Gaynor Minden launched their brown shows about 6 months prior, and Capezio has a great spectrum of flesh tone tights. Look at that …Change!
Exhibit C: There has been a great deal of change on stage as well, New York City Ballet not only hit a home run with Kyle Abraham’s new piece The Runaways. which featured Taylor Stanley, but they have also had several Black male dancers making debuts in new roles, while Nashville Ballet’s Artistic Director Paul Vasterling debuted his latest choreographic work Lucy Negro Redux an adaptation from the book by Caroline Randall Williams with his ballerina Kayla Rower in the titular role, and MacArthur Fellow Rhiannon Giddens composing the score. This is as ground breaking as Ben Stevenson’s Cleopatra he created for Lauren Anderson almost 20 years ago.
Exhibit D: Dutch National Ballet’s Positioning Ballet conference was held Feb 15-18 in Amsterdam, this is a convening of international Artistic Leadership in ballet spearheaded by Ted Brandsen and curated and moderated by Peggy Olislaegers. I was honored to be a keynote speaker once again along with with Historian Jennifer Homans of the Center for Ballet and the Arts. Homans spoke about the external and internal threats to ballet which included: Politics, the Internet, internal included what she called the “narrowing from within” and the way in which we educate dancers as well as tradition. My keynote was entitled The Deconstruction of Culture and Leadership in Ballet.