Being Black In The Ballet: Disadvantage?

People have been noticing how lily-white ballet is for decades. The American dancer Eric Underwood (pictured, with Melissa Hamilton), in London’s Royal Ballet, notices every day. Yet, he says, ‘Ultimately, being black is an asset. If you’re in a setting where you’re different, celebrate that – it’s a wonderful thing. Your upbringing, your culture, the things that have enriched you that maybe other people didn’t have – you have to incorporate them into your dancing. Growing up in America in a black household, I danced at weekends, danced with my family – it was a large part of our culture. I would even have little dance contests with my sister and our neighbours. I’m able to incorporate that into my dancing because, before I started classical training, I had learned how to move. I don’t think it’s anything bad to be exoticised; if you’re exotic, embrace it and dance well.’

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