Before her performances at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival this summer, Chyrstyn Fentroy had to style her own hair — and she said she prefers it that way.
“Well, as a black woman, I have an afro,” the Boston Ballet soloist said while stretching her legs at a makeshift physical therapy station before the Saturday matinee. Recalling one instance in which a stylist broke hairs with aggressive brushing, Fentroy said, “Most people who do hair in the ballet world aren’t familiar with it.”
When Fentroy joined Boston Ballet in 2017, she was the first black woman to do so in a decade. She has risen through the company quickly, scoring two promotions in two years
Fentroy’s interest in dance began with her parents, who were also her teachers. Her father coached a dance team in hip-hop and jazz, and her mother, who performed with regional companies in California and at the Cairo Opera House, trained her in classical ballet. Fentroy can describe the studio where her parents taught, the Peninsula School of Performing Arts in Palos Verdes, Calif., in vivid detail — she practically grew up there.
“My parents would be teaching, and I would be stuck there, especially Saturdays. I’d be there all day,” Fentroy recalled. When she wasn’t in class, she passed the time by riding her scooter around the parking lot and sneaking into a utility closet to watch movies. “I would eventually wander off, but I never went far.”
Fentroy’s parents divorced when she was about 7. Her father remained her teacher for a few years, but the budding dancer was primarily raised by her mother. Ruth Fentroy said she “ate, slept, and breathed ballet” through Chyrstyn’s childhood, though she declined several contracts so as not to interfere with her daughter’s schooling.
But Fentroy wasn’t certain dance was her passion until she left home. As the teachers’ daughter, “it was easier for me to slip through the cracks and get away with not pointing my toes, goofing around at the back of the room,” she said.
Still, Fentroy was stung by the remarks she overheard in the studio — some peers suggested she got desirable parts and solos only because the teachers were her parents.
Leaving California after high school for the Joffrey Ballet School in New York marked a shift for Fentroy: She was beginning to define herself as an artist on her own terms. Her craft, she realized, could be about more than just flashy “tricks.” CONTINUE ARTICLE HERE