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]
@beatrice3000: I was also going to point out that, at least in the first volume of the DVD (hey, I never took ballet, I have to go slow, k?) one of the two male dancers featured is black. The other is Asian. The NYC Ballet — pretty progressive? Or just on their workout DVD?
@AnderBobo: I'm only kinda playing devil's advocate here, but there are aerodymanic and physical reasons that ballet dancers are encouraged to be thin and lithe; I have heard from professional dancers who are trained in ballet that many of the more complicated ballets would be logistically difficult-to-impossible with "average" bodied dancers. That said, I am NOT a dancer, and I have no idea whether they were being pretentious and sizeist, or honest with me.
Another minority ballet dancer: that guy who won So You Think You Can Dance last year. I know, that's an annoying reference, but I remembered him because 1. He was a student at the DC Ballet Academy and a member of the National Ballet Company here in the capital, and 2. he was HOT and definitly at least 1/2 black, if not just a light skinned black man.