BDBB: The Black Dance and Broadway Blog

Covering black professionals and professional productions in the dance and theater worlds, plus general arts news

Dance: Black Ballerina Faces Discrimination at Bolshoi Academy

Photo courtesy Precious Adams.

Photo courtesy Precious Adams.

It’s 2013 but we’re still talking about racism in the classical ballet world.

The latest instance is the story of Precious Adams, an African American teenager studying at the prestigious Bolshoi Academy in Moscow, who has boldly gone public with stories about her being passed over for roles – any role – in productions.

In a story in the Moscow Times, Adams’ experience is chronicled with detail that is astonishing for the openness of the bigotry revealed. The story, for example, begins with an anecdote in which the reporter shares a story about Adams being dismissed from an audition by an instructor who says, “What are you doing here?” and tells her to leave the room.

Of course, the Russian ballet world is notorious for behind the scenes machinations. Everyone has, by now, probably heard about the Bolshoi Ballet director who was splashed with acid and the backstage revenge schemes that are the suspected cause. Last week, another American ballerina – Joy Womack (who is white), came forward with allegations that she had been told she needed to pay a bribe in order to get better casting at the Bolshoi.

So the case of Ms. Adams needs to be placed in the context of the Bolshoi’s overall insanity.

But it also is a story that needs to be placed in the context of blacks in ballet, and ballerinas in particular. The Moscow Times article, for example, points out that a former classmate of Adams was able to be cast and is now dancing with the American Ballet Theatre. But that dancer, Gabe Stone Shayer, is a black man, not a black woman.

And we have seen time and time again that, for some reason, black women seem to have a harder time navigating and ascending through the ranks of classical ballet companies.

So where does that leave Ms. Adams? Hopefully she will find a way to rise above the challenge and make headlines for her performances on the stage, not her struggles to get there.

Here’s a link to the Moscow Times story:  http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/us-ballerina-faces-discrimination-at-bolshoi-academy/489887.html

 

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