Pilot Program for Addressing Bias in Ballet to Affect Real and Lasting Change
Coalition for Artistic Directors in Ballet
2020 was a year like no other. We faced a pandemic that changed every sector of global society, economic turbulence, and a long overdue racial reckoning. All of this, and much more, led to a number of events that ushered in an international outcry to reevaluate the ongoing problems with racial equity and civil rights that the world continues to face.
As a response, a group of leaders from the classical ballet and dance fields assembled to discuss and address how we could affect change not only in our art form, but also through our art form. Over the course of several months, we turned the lens on our organizations and ourselves to evaluate our practices and policies, to brainstorm and share, and to listen and learn from one another.
In our highly competitive art form, it is uncommon for ballet leadership to gather collectively on such a regular basis, but these are unprecedented times requiring unprecedented actions. Our commitment to this fellowship increased and as our group grew we expanded our discussions. What became clear was that our art form, born of the imperial courts of Europe, is in need of an overhaul if it is to move further into the 21st century.
Each ballet company represented in this coalition has its unique history, mission, style and artistic approach. We view and use these differences as strengths to come together as a collective to initiate and be part of the change needed through our organizations and through our art form. We are committed to building broader diversity and creating greater equity.
As we examined how to accomplish these goals in ballet, we agreed that building bridges that open up relations and create bonds connecting our organizations to Black and Brown dancers is paramount.
Additionally, by creating opportunities at the educational level, we will break down barriers, create bridges, and build relationships based on mutual trust and respect.
To create equal access and opportunity for all young artists, we must cultivate a space where people of all colors and races are welcomed, and feel welcomed into the art form. Participation, collaboration and involvement will shape and define the ballet of the future.
With this commitment to the future of our art form, we are unveiling our first collective initiative where we will welcome and create access for young artists of color to experience America’s classical ballet and contemporary dance companies. This initiative will provide young artists free online experiences with the companies of their choice.
Each dance company will create a two-hour virtual visit specifically designed by each organization to best represent their vision, culture, artistic philosophy and the community they create within their companies. The two-hour virtual experience may include:
- A chance for young artists, their families and teachers to virtually visit the organization’s facilities.
- An online, live ballet or repertory class with the company’s leadership and artists to experience each organization’s unique style and approach.
- The opportunity to take a school or company class and be seen dancing.
- The opportunity to learn and be coached in company repertoire by the artistic directors, rehearsal directors, or company members.
- The chance to interact with, and ask questions of the organization’s students, professional performers, production team, administrators and board members.
These unprecedented virtual visits present an interactive look inside the overall environment of each company. At the same time, it allows young artists, their families and teachers to experience each company’s vision, culture and community, and ask questions of their leadership.
This initiative is the first in a number of action steps and reforms we will implement over time to move ballet forward and become an art form for everyone. Dance should be open and inviting to everyone. But this will require thoughtful curation and a more inclusive vision. It will take time, work, risk, and love, and as a collective we are committed to bridging the divide, to unleash the possibilities.
Artistic Director, Kyle Abraham
Artistic Director, Edwaard Liang
Artistic Director, Adam Sklute
Artistic Director, Miko Nissinen
Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Dwight Rhoden
Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Desmond Richardson
Dance Theatre of Harlem
Artistic Director, Virginia Johnson
Gibney Dance Company
Director, Nigel Campbell
Artistic Director, Stanton Welch
Artistic Director, Ashley Wheater MBE
Laguna Dance Festival
Artistic Director, USC Professor, Jodie Gates
Miami City Ballet
Artistic Director, Lourdes Lopez
New York City Ballet
Artistic Director, Jonathan Stafford
Artistic Director, Wendy Whelan
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Artistic Director, Peter Boal
San Francisco Ballet
Artistic Director, Helgi Thomasson
Artistic Director, Julie Kent
Virtual Open House dates for your diary:
Miami City Ballet Company – Saturday March 20, 2021
Miami City Ballet School – Saturday March 27, 2021
Photo: MCB Headquarters by Mitchell Zachs