The year – and decade – is drawing to a close, and we think that one of the greatest accomplishments in dance this decade is inclusion. Not just in the dance world, but in daily life. Whether it’s about race or gender or other issues, more and more people are speaking up, fighting for equality, and making a stand for themselves. Long gone are the days where the minority was oppressed, and threatened into silence. Today, we see the dance world becoming more and more inclusive, though clearly, we still have a long way to go before we get there. To wrap up the decade, here are 6 examples of inclusion in dance that gives us hope, and restores our faith in humanity!
1. Appointment Of Principal Dancers Who Are Of Colour
There are plenty of reputable ballet companies out there, and up to a certain point in time, they were exclusively “white”. However, as Ross (from F.R.I.E.N.D.S) would say, “times change, roll with the punches”, things change indeed, and we saw more and more people of other races joining ranks in companies, and even rising to ranks of principal dancers. Some of the most well-known principal dancers of different races include Tan Yuan Yuan, Misty Copeland, Misa Kuranaga, José Manuel Carreño, Carlos Acosta, Stella Abrera… the list could go on and on, and we’re incredibly thrilled to see this interesting mix!
2. Misty Copeland
In relation to the above item, Misty Copeland is probably the most talked-about ballerina when it comes to topics such as representation and change. Just very recently, she posted on her Instagram about how her accomplishment cannot be used in the “Racism is over now argument”, as there are still so many instances of under-representation or misrepresentation, and cultural correctness. As one of the pioneers of inclusion in dance, Misty Copeland frequently speaks out about dance inclusion issues, and uses her social media platforms to advocate change and equality. She certainly has come a long way since her first dance class and her promotion, and her work is inspiring countless others to pursue their passion.
3. Cloud & Victory Tee
Racial issues aside, another hotly-debated topic in the world of dance is none other than body size. As ballerinas, there’s this viewpoint that we should be stick thin and compact, all the better for lifts, jumps and showing off clean lines. With this comes a whole host of body image issues – not just physical issues such as eating disorders, but mental ones as well as one could be under tremendous pressure to conform to a certain body type. While this “habit” could be harder to break, dancers are slowly but surely learning to accept and love their bodies. cloudandvictory, which is an ethical and sustainable balletwear brand from Singapore, even produced a tee promoting a positive body image called The Ultimate Ballet Body Guide: 1. Have a body. 2. Dance ballet. (Done.) We believe this gives plenty the confidence to dance, and that ballet dancers don’t necessarily have to be a stick figure.
4. Stephanie Kurlow
Stephanie Kurlow made waves as the first hijabi ballerina and yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of putting her hair on display, Stephanie keeps her hair covered under a hijab, and still dances ballet. She’s only 18 years old this year, but she’s certainly an influence for other hijabi dancers who want to make it professionally. We’re certainly breaking down boundaries here, and this simply reinforces the statement that “nothing is impossible”. Stephanie is living proof that if you want to dance, nothing can stand in your way.
5. The First Black Marie
Yet another piece of recent news, New York City Ballet has just cast a dancer of colour in the role of “Marie” in The Nutcracker. Charlotte Nebres, at 11, is the first black dancer to ever land herself the role of Marie, the young heroine in the ballet. The NYC Ballet has been performing The Nutcracker for more than 50 years, and this is the first time they’ve ever cast a black dancer for Marie. Charlotte herself quipped that it seemed a little late for this to happen, and she wanted to make sure that she would not be the last person of colour to be cast as Marie. You go, girl!
6. Boys Dance Too
You may also remember this: a host of popular talk show Good Morning America seemingly mocked Prince George for dancing ballet, and the ballet community rallied and responded in kind. Most notably, there was a ballet-class-dance-flashmob which happened right in front of the GMA studios, led by professional dancers and attended by both male and female dance pros and enthusiasts alike, with several others sporting signs and placards to support Prince George, and to state that #boysdancetoo. Yeah they do, and we are proud to be part of the ever-evolving and supportive dance community!
It was a fruitful decade of dancing, and we can’t wait to see what the next year and decade has in store for us! Are there any dance thoughts or sentiments you’d like to share with us before the year ends, or what you hope for the future of dance? Share them with us in the comments below!
Embarking on the journey of self-discovery through dance.