Sharing the struggles and celebrating the triumphs of being African American in the ballet world and beyond.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Do discussions about race serve to perpetuate racial attitudes and hamper progress?

"Shut up and dance!" A stark and brutal statement indeed, but it's what my colleagues and I would say to each other for excessive whining. Though said half jokingly, this response caused me to think that either my complaints were petty, or were they simply falling on deaf ears. It also reminds me of how as dancers we are expected to endure great pain, work arduously and keep our suffering to ourselves. Actually, those who endured the most and complained the least seemed to be very well respected and admired.

Recently a friend, who is not African-American, shared a discussion she had over a dinner with a group of women. The topic of the discussion was what the group perceived to be incessant griping by people of color about" their plight." One of these ladies seemed to think that such complaining only made things more difficult for the complainers. After my friend had given a full account of this conversation, I posed several questions to myself. For instance, were individuals in the dance world also fed up with constant reminders of diversity problems? Do discussions about race serve to perpetuate racial attitudes and hamper progress? Does the failure to address significant racial disparities in society make issues of race and inequality go away?

I never wanted to spotlight my race throughout my career, but the topic always seemed to arise. If it wasn't the random interviewers that seemed to surface every Black History Month, it was the inquisitive onlooker who wondered why there were so few women of color in ballet. I imagine this question would not have ran through their minds had they not seen at least a minority presence. Regardless of this focus on my color, I didn't want to spotlight my race. I knew who I was and where I came from. However, as an artist, I wanted to perfect my craft to such an extent that others would be forced to see beyond the color of my skin. Although, this was my approach, I believe that everyone has a right to overcome obstacles in the way that suits their individual circumstance. No matter what our approach, the end result is to be appreciated and acknowledged for our art.

This blog is not an effort to stir up yet another tired conversation about race. I simply want to provoke thought and hopefully create solutions for a more inclusive experience in the genre I love so much. It is my sincere hope that honest dialogue, sincere fellowship and real change will result in a world where such conversations are relics from a day long gone.


Photo taken from The New York Times

I couldn't let this week's posting go by without taking a moment to acknowledge those who have lost lives and those continuing to suffer in Japan. I have worked in Japan quite a bit and have met some great people, on and off the stage. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you and especially for those that I have not been able to contact. I pray you are all safe!

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