Racism in Dance
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Racism in Dance
How do we define race? According to the power point presentation in Dr. Nick Gallis KIN 306 class, race is defined as a population of people that are believed to be naturally or biologically distinct from other populations. However, researchers for the Human Genome Project concluded that race, as we understand it, does not exist. Based on the findings of the researchers, they found that all humans share the same basic genetic material (Witt, 2008). Therefore, we are all the same.
How can we all be the same if every person on our planet has such unique physical characteristics? We can fit into one racial group based on our skin color and even another racial group based on the texture of our hair. Dancers are also trying to figure out where they fit in the dance world here in the United States. The “typical” aesthetic of a prima ballerina is white, small busted, and thin. So where do the dark skin, big busted, and thicker dancers find professional work? When a person thinks about African Americans in dance, companies like Alvin Ailey and Dance Theater of Harlem are probably most likely to come to mind fairly quickly. Rarely do we think of black dancers in companies such as The Joffrey, American Ballet Theater (ABT) or The Pacific Northwest Ballet. However, if there are black dancers represented in the typical “white” dance companies, they are more likely to be male rather than female.
In the Joffrey Ballet Company there are two black male dancers and two female black dancers out of a total of 42 company members (Updated Company Roster,2012). The Pacific Northwest Ballet Company has only one male dancer that is an African American out of 42 company members (PNB The Artists, 2012). ABT can be broken down into principal dancers, soloists and corps de ballet. Of the 16 principal dancers there are zero African Americans. There are 14 soloists in which only one is a female African American. Out of the 62 corps de ballet members there is four male and one female African American dancer (ABT: Dancers, 2012).
The lack of visibility of African Americans in the countrys most prestigious ballet companies is rather startling to me. Unfortunately, I can understand as well. The white population will most likely correlate the black body type with dance styles of modern, jazz, tap, hip-hop, Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-Haitian. These are the styles of dance that have the most diversity. I believe I am (or was) the victim of reverse racism.
I danced professionally with an African Dance Troupe and I was the only white dancer in the company. Not only did we perform Afro-Haitian and Afro-Caribbean dance but we also danced in the style of jazz. One venue where we performed was in Los Angeles in a hotel ballroom for the Black Ski Club where there were celebrities in attendance. The performance space was on ground level (not on a stage) on a