Like so many corners of the globe, the Ballet world has long poured over and favored the concept of whiteness.
The “ballet blanc” is a perfect example of that. Ballet blanc or “white ballet” is a scene in a ballet performance where the performers all wear white dresses or tutus. Deeply tied to its performance is a school of thought that suggests there shouldn’t be any black dancers in the corps de ballet because the identical nature of the performers is key to the performance.
If you ever took a ballet class yourself, you also know that racism exists in ballet thanks to your first-hand experiences with the tights and shoes you bought for your classes. Most likely you noticed that the “nude” color tights and slippers you were required to wear only came in colors called “European pink.” The issue has brought about a long and laborious process Black ballerinas are subjected to endure called “pancaking.” To make the pink and peach-colored ballet shoes match their skin tones, Black dancers beat their shoes with makeup so that they match their skin tones.
In light of the current fight against ongoing racial injustices, thousands are signing petitions calling on ballet shoes makers to add darker color options to their line of shoes.
To promote the petitions, Briana Bell, a Twitter user and an 18-year-old black dancer from Dallas, explained that ballet shoes are just one of several ways that dancers of color are made to feel as if they do not belong in the world of ballet. “Black ballerinas have constantly been pushed out of the typically and traditionally white ballet world because our bodies aren’t like theirs and this is just another way to make us feel unwanted!” went onto explain in a series of tweets
In an interview with Daily Mail.com Bell explained that “Racial discrimination within the dance world is passive in my experience, but very much still there. Little things like not being able to find your skin tone in leotards, tights, and shoes may seem insignificant, but imagine how embarrassing it is to have to wear tights/leotards/shoes that do not blend with your skin and your white counterpart’s dance attire matches them perfectly. Recently, of course, efforts have been made in the way of leotards and tights but pointe shoes have fallen behind.”
Bell also highlighted the lack of support and awareness of non-POC dancers is what has continued such microaggressions.
“I’ve come to learn from the comments of my post that simple things like this never crossed the minds of many non-POC, because this seems very basic and not like a luxury to them,” she went onto explain in her interview. “But to us it’s a luxury that hasn’t been afforded yet. And while I do understand that there are some businesses that sell various shades of brown pointe shoes online, finding a pointe shoe for you isn’t so easy that you can do it online. We need to go into the shop, get our feet measured, and find the exact shoe for you because there are so many different shapes. If done incorrectly, you can injure yourself.”
Here’s hoping Belle’s petition sparks a change amongst big ballet brands like Capezio and Block.
“These big brands like Capezio and Bloch are more accessible for us because they have shops locally we can walk into,” Belle underlined. “So at this point, it’s either you sacrifice comfort and safety for the color, or you suck it up and paint your shoes after you get them.”
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