BDBB: The Black Dance and Broadway Blog

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

Dance: The Black Ballerina – Can’t We Be Soft, Too?

Image from Pointe Magazine of Ashley Murphy of Dance Theatre of Harlem

Image from Pointe Magazine of Ashley Murphy of Dance Theatre of Harlem

The new issue of Pointe Magazine has just come out featuring three black ballerinas- Ashley Murphy of Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ebony Williams of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Misty Copeland of American Ballet Theatre.

 

The photos are beautiful showing strong, powerful women. And the story, by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Alicia Graf Mack (a former star with DTH) is moving and poignant – a true must read.

 

That’s all lovely.

 

Goodness knows that these young women deserve their moment in the spotlight and all the accolades in the world. Yes, they’re fierce, strong, dynamic, powerful, etc.

 

But a part of me wishes that just once we were able to see these black ballerinas in a softer light. Would it be too much to ask for them to also be coached, cast and celebrated for their femininity, delicacy, softness and grace?

 

Part of the issue here is balance. We see so few images of black ballerinas in general. But time and time again, when we do see a black ballerina, she’s the tough one, the strong one, the Amazon, the jumps and turns girl, the powerhouse.

blackballerinapointemaginside

For example, Copeland has been featured in a lot of the “strong woman” roles in the ABT repertoire like Gamzatti in “Le Bayadere.” I have no doubt that we will someday see her in the tough technical ballerina roles like the lead in “Theme and Variations.” I have no doubt she’ll someday be a kick-butt Myrtha in “Giselle” (and if she’s already done it, my apologies but I”ve never seen her do it.)

 

But I sincerely hope for the day when she’s asked to show her softer side, too. The real triumph, for me, will be to see her pushed to show her delicate and vulnerable side. Why can’t she be Giselle or Nikiya or Odette? That, to me, will be a true victory on many levels.

 

Similarly, Williams and the ladies of Dance Theatre of Harlem deserve and need that opportunity to show their softer side as well, both as women and as artists. Certainly, with DTH, the casting opportunities are more varied. But the dance world, in general, still places them in the strong, fierce box, as evidenced by the Pointe Magazine feature.

 

So while I cheer for the show of power and the attention these ladies are receiving in general, I will be even happier for the day when they are celebrated for showing another side.

 

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