Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theater Ballet (1988-1989) Dance Theatre of Harlem: Apprentice/Corps de Ballet (1992-2001), Soloist (2001-2002), Principal (2002-?) Complexions Contemporary Ballet: Guest
Born March 13, 1973, Bethania Gomes is a Brazilian dancer from Rio de Janeiro. Though Gomes began ballet at the age of nine, she felt out of place as the only Black student in her group. Her mother Beatriz Nascimento, a “controversial historian and forerunner of the Black feminist movement of ‘70s Brazil,” showed young Gomes photos of Black ballet dancers, including members of Dance Theatre of Harlem.
At age 13, Gomes started studying under Consuelo Rios at the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theater School. It was during this time that she attended a masterclass with DTH, meeting Arthur Mitchell and solidifying her desire to join the company.
In 1988, Gomes temporarily joined the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theater Ballet, where she “went through [her] first and most difficult experience of racism.” She then traveled in 1990 to the United States and auditioned for the Dance Theatre of Harlem School, where she studied before joining the company in 1992 as an apprentice. Gomes was promoted to the rank of soloist in 2001 and principal dancer just one year after, reportedly becoming the “first black Brazilian dancer to reach the highest rank in an international company.”
With DTH, Gomes traveled to 26 countries, including South Africa, where she performed for Nelson Mandela. She was in the original DTH cast of Dwight Rhoden’s Twist (1999), and her principal roles included those in Gabriela Taub-Darvash’s Romeo and Juliet (1976), John Taras’ Firebird (1982), Karel Shook’s Le Corsaire (1974), Robert Garland’s Return (2000), Arthur Mitchell’s South African Suite (1999) and The Greatest (1977), Alonzo King’s Signs and Wonders (1995), Royston Maldoom’s Adagietto #5, George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, and Billy Wilson’s Concerto in F. She also danced with Prince and the New Power Generation.
In 2007, the dancer became pregnant and returned to Brazil, where she taught for Dançando Para Não Dançar.
Returning to the US, Gomes continued her teaching career with DTH Dancing Through Barriers, teaching at PS 210 and Community Health of the Heights. She choreographed and coached for the Nike Black History Month 2020 campaign and appeared in the short film Ingrid Silva: The Journey in 2016.
In 2020, it was reported that a series is in the works about Gomes and her mother.
Gomes still works as a dance instructor, ballet coach, and choreographer at DTH. She has declared, “I am a happy cisne negro (black swan).”