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Monday, May 07, 2007

Where fore art the Black Ballerinas?

IN 1933 Lincoln Kirstein wrote a passionate 16-page letter to his friend A. Everett Austin Jr., the director of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, introducing a man named George Balanchine and a dream: to remake ballet for America. The plan, as Kirstein wrote, was to have “four white girls and four white boys, about 16 years old, and eight of the same, negros.”

Aesha Ash is a member of Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, a San Francisco company. She was in the corps of New York City Ballet but left in 2003; since then the company has had no black women.

Tai Jimenez was the only Dance Theater of Harlem alumna to find a job in a major classical company, Boston Ballet, where she danced until injuries forced her to step down.
What resulted from that letter — the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet, both founded by Kirstein and Balanchine — have endured as major cultural institutions. But Kirstein’s plan for student diversity was never realized, and while other minorities have made inroads in classical ballet, the complicated reality of racial inequality persists, especially for black women.

Because male dancers have always been in short supply, black men have attained some success, the most famous being Arthur Mitchell, who was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet before founding Dance Theater of Harlem in 1969 with Karel Shook. But there has never been a black female principal in the ranks of American Ballet Theater or City Ballet.

For the remainder of this NY Times article, click on the link below:

Where Are All the Black Swans?

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