The new generation of dancers transforms the image of classical ballet into a positive, diverse and inclusive body
With the reopening of Broadway and the return of in-person performances, a group of ballerinas share their plans to transform the image of classical ballet into a body-positive, diverse and inclusive art form.
“It’s a new era in dancing, I hope the world can see it,” said Devon Custalow, a dancer at Joffrey Ballet School. “With everything that has happened with the pandemic, I hope we can give people like me more opportunities – the struggling and struggling artists who just need this break.”
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, it shut down everything, including the entertainment industry.
“The pandemic has made a lot of people rethink,” said Tianna Brown, a dancer with the Jersey City Ballet.
The world was undergoing more transformations than those caused by the pandemic, and dancing was no exception; she was confronted with issues of equality, diversity and human rights.
Today, dancers from different backgrounds share their experiences of facing discrimination in the dance industry, in the hope that their stories can inspire change.
With the ballet’s history of racism and under-representation, Tallia A. Petrone, a dancer with the Black Sheep Ballet; a virtual company created to promote diversity in dance, reflecting on the injustices created by “the image of traditional ballet”.
“I like to think that I’m changing the industry just by being there. I’m a tall woman of color, who’s round – I don’t fit the ballet narrative at all,” Petrone said.
Ballet has its roots in a traditionally Eurocentric image, which has made it difficult for dancers of color to find fair training and opportunities within the dance community, the dancers shared.
Many famous ballets follow a tradition known as the White Ballet (White Ballet), where female ballerinas and corps de ballet wear white dresses or tutus.
The dancers share how this classical scene is deeply tied to the prejudices inherent in dancers of color that do not match this “white aesthetic”.
This new generation of dance is pushing the boundaries of classical tradition to create what it hopes to be a progressive and inclusive dance community.
“Diversity isn’t just about racial identity or gender identity – that’s it. It’s about representing yourself,” Petrone said.
She explained how exclusion based on race, gender, sexuality, age or appearance has been a constant challenge in the dance community.
“We had just tense the room,” said T’Shauna Henry, a contemporary dancer, using a dance term to extend your leg into a pointy toe, “and we’re already judged before we can make a count of. 8. “
New industry leaders are creating spaces to embrace the inclusion of all dancers, regardless of their background. This is exactly what Monique Burgess, director of Nightglow Entertainment, hopes to do with her new ballet, “The Prince of Barykova”.
“I want to create a ballet that lets the dancers know there is a space for you,” Burgess said.
She explained how the new ballet promotes diversity by launching dancers who are not immediately considered due to their background or identity.
The dance world needs to be “more accessible – lessons are expensive, equipment, training, competitions, etc. come at a price,” said Daisy Morales of the Alvin Ailey School.
Now, with many classes and means of expression finding their way onto virtual platforms, dancing is a more tangible dream than ever.
“The positive side of the pandemic is that it increases accessibility,” said Tcheser Feaster of the Joffrey Ballet School, “once it’s available everywhere you can’t stop the progression”.
While no virtual classroom can replace the joy of being on stage, Feaster explained how the dance community is making the changes needed to allow their craft to continue during the pandemic in a more inclusive way.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is and when you started, I want everyone to know that this is our world together, and it is the art world together,” Brown said.
By sharing their stories, these dancers hope to transform not only the dance world but society in general into a more inclusive and tolerant community.
“Dancing is a great way for humans to have the chance to express ourselves where words fail. Anyone can dance,” said Petrone.