After listening to the Radio Four Programme, we would like to agree with Bruce - it is a shame they didn’t research further before going on air to discuss the situation of black women in classical ballet.
In the short space of time since Ballet Black has started, we have created a website, have a monthly diary on this site and have put together a classical ballet company of six black and Asian dancers – four of whom are female. Our Ballet School will be up and running in January 2002.
Christopher Nourse made a sweeping statement in saying that no Artistic Director would base their choice of dancer on colour. There are no black, female ballet dancers working in major classical companies in this country today, and there has to be a reason for it. (It is worth noting that during the last eight or nine years, there have been no black women dancing with the English National Ballet Company.)
We agree with Nourse that more needs to be done on the educational front. One of our own company members commented that she thought it would be difficult for us to find any more black dancers. There are more black female students attending ballet lessons now in comparison to ten or twenty years ago, but how many of these students decide to follow a dance career? Making the jump from part-time training to vocational school is where a student could encounter problems.
A female student pursuing a career in dance may want to follow the classical ballet route. On examining today’s ballet companies however, she might feel that there are more opportunities for black women in contemporary dance, as this is where there are a greater number of black role models.
Nourse is right in saying that there needs to be greater involvement in Britain’s black community, and this is precisely the purpose of our Ballet School – to encourage black people to participate in ballet. There are many projects that are designed to make dance, and in particular ballet, open to all, yet the fact remains that one look at the top five ballet companies in this country and you will not see a single black woman. For all the good that these projects do, without real role models, how much of a difference can they actually make? If Ballet Black succeeds, we will be the only classical company that provides these female role models. In a country as culturally diverse as Britain, should Ballet Black be the only ballet company to do this?
Cassa Pancho & Vanessa Fernandes