Having watched a BBC documentary about the life of Margot Fonteyn I decided to find out more about her life and career. As I read about her life, I also read about the lives that had intertwined with her own. I read about her husband and the various dance partners she had. I then decided to find out about the various ballet companies in the UK. I came across two articles, one written in 2008 and the other in 2014 by the guardian complaining about the lack of diversity within our ballet companies. I thought surely this couldn’t be the case, so i searched for black ballerinas and found no prominent ones in the UK but came across Misty Copeland and Michaela DePrince, whose stories are so awe inspiring but also made me aware that the reality of the situation is so sad…
Usually when i see a lack of diversity in a particular area i just think well what were you expecting? But after seeing this i felt stung. The Royal Ballet was founded in 1931, many other European countries have ballet companies going back even further. So I guess I was shocked and confused when I could only find a few black ballerinas, when ballet has been practiced for so long. The thing that hurt the most was the realisation that its not just a matter of systematic discrimination, neither is it a lack of people in power allowing other ethnic groups into their ballet companies or even letting them take a leading role. It’s much bigger than that!
I realised that as a black girl born and raised in Britain it wasn’t even a thought in my mothers head or in other mothers heads to put their daughters into ballet. Black girls in a sense have been taught to have different aspirations or take part in particular activities and disregard others. For example taking part in basketball or netball after school. Why is it that the thought of ballet doesn’t even register or cross the radar of a black girl growing up in an inner city?
I understand that often parents face hardships providing for their children but in wanting the best for their children there seems to be a missing component. Both my parents are university educated and have pushed me to aspire to more, just as my peers and classmates have experienced as well, but still it’s like even though there are opportunities to under take new activities we don’t, I guess some may say well black people aren’t interested in ballet or many of the arts but I feel this a very damaging view.
If this is the case we are preventing ourselves from living in a society that isn’t defined by barriers or categories. I believe that in any discipline or area if a persons talent is undeniable it breaks barriers, no one can deny the talent that the person has and throughout history this has been shown.
It’s as if I have just woken up and realised that dance, art, literature and music in all their forms haven’t been fully recognised and utilised by ALL people. Even though ballet doesn’t necessarily interest me, I hope to seek out and watch the few ballerinas from diverse backgrounds who are fully dedicated and committed to their craft, as I have noticed that not enough people see or notice them the thought doesn’t even register.
We should recognise that as people we are expressive in more ways than one, so shouldn’t just think about becoming singers, rappers or actors neither should we aspire to be just doctors, lawyers or engineers. There’s more to life than the little bubble you have been surrounded in.