The speaker is Raven Wilkinson, the very gifted African American ballet dancer who performed with Ballet Russe in the 50s and the Dutch National Ballet in the 1960s and 70s:
Different cultures -- coming from different historical experiences and value systems -- behave differently. It is useful for Americans to learn about alternatives to the way we habitually think about -- and universalize -- race and color. As one who would be quite delighted to watch a black Juliet (or Romeo) in a mixed or even all-white cast, I can only imagine how liberating this experience in the Netherlands must have been for Wilkinson, and how sad that she had to travel thousands of miles from home to find it.
BR [Michael Langlois]: When you arrived in Europe did the whole issue of your being a black ballet dancer change?
Wilkinson: Yes. The Dutch were not so conscious of it. In Holland there are many people of color from the Antilles and Indonesia. They'd been there for generations and they were considered as Dutch as anyone else. To the people over there I was simply an American. I wasn't black. I wasn't African American. I was an American.
People in Europe, in Holland anyway, were more concerned aobut who you were than what you were. They didn't look at you and your clothes or your skin color to decide if they liked you or not.. Of course, our history of slavery didn't exist there and, by implication, the institution of racism, so there wasn't this hurdle I had to jump over to be accepted.
When we toured to England, though , it was like being back in 1940s New York. Everyone was trying to place you, to decide how they should act toward you. [ ... ]
By the way, the entire interview with Wilkinson is worth seeking out on many levels. Only a relatively small part has to do with racial matters. The rest has to do .... as it always would in a perfect world .... with BALLET !
["A conversation with Raven Wilkinson," Michael Langlois, Ballet Review, Fall 2007]