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Online Event Discusses Racism In Ballet

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As conversations about addressing racism in the United States continue, the arts are not exempt. An online panel discussion held by Ballet West on Wednesday focused on this issue.

 “There’s many different ways that we can go about it and create action that can create a change that it’s no longer about a pigment of someone’s skin, but it’s about their skill level, their ability, their quality of dance and creating those equal opportunities for dancers of color to be considered as classical ballerinas," Katlyn Addison said.

Addison is a Ballet West First Soloist and a Caribbean woman. She was part of the online discussion that offered an approach to eliminating systematic racism in the art of ballet and exploring the history of racism in the dance field. 

Addison said she dealt with racist comments early in her dance career as a young girl, as well as fought to attain standards catered towards those who were white. 

“With my right curls that I had growing up my parents, my mom and my aunts, and my sister would have to slick back my hair so tight. I would have so much gel in my hair just to have that slicked tight bun look," she said.

Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor is an associate professor of African-American history at Smith college in Massachusetts and said that because there are successful black ballerinas, it does not mean the fight against race has ended in the field of dance.

“Not to diminish the accomplishments of somebody like Misty Copeland, and other prominent black ballet dancers. But really, there’s still kind of a rooted problem," she said.

Addison said while there are rising opportunities for ballerinas of color, there is still a lot of room for discussion and growth, which she believes will foster even more change.