E Johnson, on 20 September 2011 - 08:02 AM, said:
I do not think it is accurate to say that the reason there are so few dark ballerinas is that there aren't enough students/aspiring ballerinas out there. I've been taking my (white) kids to class at the Ailey school for a long time now, and I see plenty of dark-skinned young women in pointe shoes. They donít seem to think that ballet is not "for them" or an unattainable career. Sure, lots of them donít have the body type/talent for a top ballet company, but that is true of a lot of white ballet students as well.
Also, on the body type issue -- Monique Meuniere [sp?], who was Latina but not dark, had a very curvy/ voluptuous body and nevertheless was, for a while, an NYCB principal and also danced with ABT. She admittedly had a lot of body/weight issues while dancing but it didnít stop her from advancing. The one black woman I remember in NYCB - Aesha Ash - was considerably closer to an "ideal" Balanchine body. Itís easy to generalize about black women's bodies, but itís not really helpful. If the issue is darker skinned women, there are dark skinned women of Asian and Latin descent, as well as African descent, who arenít built like the Williams sisters.
On the subject of Ash, here's a couple of interesting things: Her blog site talking a great deal about black women in ballet:
And a paper talking about black women in ballet, including Ash, Graf, Tai Jiminez, Anderson etc
Interestingly there are several posts about how Ash was told repeatedly that her body was too muscular, too "black" and her dieting etc in order to try and conform to the white ideal. E said that he saw her as being a prototype Balanchine physique, her bosses didn't.
I also think that it's important to stress that of course not all Black women are hugely muscular, but we're talking here about Copeland and DePrince who both do have very muscular bodies and a criticism and criteria in ballet schools, certainly the ones attached to major companies have of young black students is that they're afraid once late adolescence hits they'll become too muscular.
Copeland is mixed race with very caucasian features, however DePrince is absolutely 100% African American - and much as I hate to say it, I do think she'll struggle to gain a corps position in one of the major companies.
Of course schools like Ailey, Harlem which have strong links to multicultural, ethnically diverse companies and choreographers will have a large proportion of black,mixed race and ethnic pupils. However once you get to the schools linked to the main ballet companies, the number of black girls drops to near zero to absolute zero depending on the year. There's always one or two black boys now because ballet needs men.
I think it's very naive people saying that if the schools took more black pupils then the AD would take more black dancers into the company. Schools feed the ethos and need and aesthetic choices of their company.