Is Ballet Racist?

BY NICHOLAS ROSE | April 28, 2022

Berlin

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Nicholas Rose - Photo by Bastian Bochinski

Throughout the years, ballet has evolved—but how much exactly? I wouldn’t go as far as saying that ballet itself is racist: a plie or a tendu doesn’t discriminate against someone for their colour. Nor would I say that only selected individuals can partake in these very easy-to-do steps. I do believe white people, throughout history, have had a huge pull within ballet politics, and most certainly discriminated against the individuals who have wanted to be a part of this very artistic but divided world of ballet, primarily on the basis of aesthetics. This art form was built and continues to thrive off of Eurocentric standards of beauty. These standards include having a tiny waist, a long neck, skinny legs and arms, arched feet, straight hair—and most definitely white skin. Without these attributes, one can only assume that the dancer will not be successful. To be more concerned about how someone looked in a tutu, versus the way the dancer was actually dancing in the tutu, says a lot. Ballet capitalises off of this narrow demographic, and so it’s no secret that these standards and “aesthetic,” direct where the money goes. Not everything is “beautiful at the ballet,” especially for those who don’t meet these Eurocentric aesthetics. 

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