Black Girls Rock: Twin Dancers Are Accepted to American Ballet Theatre’s Prestigious Summer Program
Twin sisters Nia and Imani Lindsay have been accepted into the prestigious American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) Summer Program on scholarship. The young girls have been walking since 8 months and have been dancing ever since. At 10-years old the two are trained in jazz, ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, and tap dance. They are also fluent in English, Spanish and French.
While they reside in Canada they made a trip to New York City to audition for ABT’s Summer Intensive program and found time to sit down with Cipriana of Urban Bush Babes to discuss their big news, bullying, their beautiful natural hair and why they love Misty Copeland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ply4Rjz_UZM
The Dallas-based organization Brown Girls Do Ballet is turning the spotlight on talented dancers of color.
TaKiyah Wallace never planned on starting an organization that celebrates and supports girls of color who want to be ballerinas, but that’s exactly what happened. When Wallace was looking for a dance school for her then 3-year-old daughter, she noticed something was missing: brown girls.
At the time, Wallace’s daughter hadn’t been enrolled in day care or school, so she wanted to find a dance academy where she’d feel completely at ease. “Her hair was not long and flowing, and she wears her Afro proudly,” Wallace explains. “So I wanted to find a school that was diverse enough for her first experience outside of the house.”
As she surfed several schools’ websites, Wallace, a public school teacher and freelance photographer in Dallas, didn’t find what she was looking for—so she decided to create it. That’s when Brown Girls Do Ballet was born.
“I was looking for a project to shoot during my downtime, so I decided my project was going to be photographing dancers of color,” Wallace says.
At first, she planned on shooting 12 little brown ballerinas, but when the casting call she issued on Facebook received responses from all over the country, she realized she was onto something.
“It went viral,” she says, still surprised by the response. “That’s when I realized how very little we are represented in the ballet world, and specifically the classical ballet world.” Click through to see how Brown Girls Do Ballet has transformed into an organization that not only highlights dancers of color in strikingly beautiful photographs, but also supports them along their journey.
“Do you know what it took for Balanchine to put me, a black man, on
stage with a white woman? This was 1957, before civil rights. He showed
me how to take her [holding her delicately by the wrist]. He said, ‘put
your hand on top.’ The skin colors were part of the choreography. He saw
what was going to happen in the world and put it on stage.” -Arthur Mitchell
Arthur Mitchell and Diana Adams rehearsing Balanchine’s Agon, 1957
When she was around 8 and rehearsing for The Nutcracker, just a few days before the performance she was told, “I’m sorry, you can’t do it. America’s not ready for a black girl ballerina.”
For Michaela, “to say this to an 8-year-old is just devastating. It was terrible.”
When she was 9, a teacher told her mother: “I don’t like to put money into black dancers because they grow up and end up having big boobs and big hips.”
The dancer looked down at her petite figure and protested, “I don’t have boobs. I don’t get it.”
Instead of getting her down, “It makes me more determined,” she said. “Because I’ve been through so much, I know now that I can make it and I can help other kids who have been in really bad situations realize that they can make it too.”
Misty Copeland and her boyfriend, laywer Olu Evans (Taye Diggs’ cousin)
Enter Olu. She met him at a club in Chelsea in 2004. Tall and fit, with a
pair of dimples that made her heart flutter, he was with actor Taye
Diggs, his cousin, when he spotted her on the dance floor. [Eleven] years
later, they’re still together.
“He was my first boyfriend,” says
Copeland, breaking into a huge smile. “He taught me to communicate in
ways I’d never learned before, to not run away from problems, and sit
down and think about things critically. And he made me feel like I
really did have a bright future as a ballerina.” (x)
In honour of #Blackout Day, some ballet history for y’all:
In August 1955, Raven WIlkinson became the first Black woman to receive a contract with a major ballet company. She was accepted into the Ballet Russe on her third audition under the premise that she keep her race a secret by wearing heavy makeup during performances.
As word of her racial identity became public, the company faced harassment from the Ku Klux Klan, and Wilkinson was not permitted to tour with them in the (still segregated) Southern states for her own safety.
Wilkinson left the Ballet Russe six years later upon suggestion from a company administrator that she start her own company doing “African dances;” Instead, she auditioned for several American ballet companies and eventually was signed on as a soloist for the Dutch National Ballet. She performed roles with them for seven years in such ballets as Firebird, Les Sylphide, Serenade, Giselle, and Swan Lake.
In 1973, Wilkinson returned to the United States and joined the New York City Opera Ballet, where she still continues to perform an occasional role.