So You Think You Can Dance

In the UK late last year, the Royal Ballet made history by casting Carlos Acosta in the role of Romeo — the first time a black male was used as a principal dancer. While black male principals are rare, black ballerinas are almost non-existent. Neither the Royal Ballet nor the English National Ballet currently employs a single black ballerina. Dancer and choreographer Cassa Pancho founded Ballet Black, a company for black and Asian dancers. "Ten or 15 years ago you'd hear that black women didn't have the physique for ballet," she says. "You'd hear 'they have big bums and flat feet.' I've spoken to some who were told to go and get their feet broken and reset for pointe work as it was felt they were too flat." But Pancho believes things are slowly shifting: "In the past, a perfectly acceptable attitude might have been to say 'we want 16 identical white blond girls.' At least it's now about hiring the best dancer, whether she's black or white." [Guardian]