Has the dance world evolved to recognize black ballerinas?
I think the world has begun the works of recognizing the black ballerina. As of now, the focus is mainly on one, with a glimpse of a few others like myself along the way. I am proud that the black, classically trained dancers are stepping up and putting themselves out in the forefront by doing photo shoots, interviews and videos. Outlets, like Brown Girls Do Ballet, have also been extremely helpful by showcasing black ballerinas. I am proud to say that Misty Copeland’s work and promotion as a principal dancer of ABT (American Ballet Theatre) definitely influenced some recognition for the black ballerina. We come in many shades and sizes. The younger generation of black dancers needs to see a vision of themselves on that kind of platform. We have one recognized example of a black ballerina and hopefully it will progress.

How has being both a woman and black affected your perspective?
Being black and a woman, I recognize that I have to work harder then some because I am at a disadvantage in society. I need to be strong. I feel like I need to be brave enough for everyone.

What can young dancers do to develop as both a dancer and an activist?

Young dancers are fortunate enough to be growing in a time where they have an abundance of resources. They should take advantage of them and find out what’s going on in their communities. Use creativity to promote change. Choreograph and dance for fundraisers and charity events. Teach dance classes that allow proceeds to go to a great cause that you believe in. A little can go a long way.

Use creativity to promote change.

How do you stay positive on a day-to-day basis?
I’m human, so of course some days are better than others. Some days I feel amazing about life and then I have days when I’m extremely hard on myself because something doesn’t go as planned or expected. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or down, I try my best to lead with a smile. That can change my day immediately. My mom always told me that the energy you give out is what you get back by the universe. We forget to pat ourselves on the back for every small moment that we accomplish, but we should. Tell yourself, “you are great,” every morning. I think we deserve that.

If you could advise your younger self on overcoming obstacles, what would you say?
Throughout the years, I’ve learned that I am my own worst critic. I am harder on myself than anyone else could be. If I could give my younger self advice, I would tell her to be patient with herself. Try not to rush process, instead, trust process. And of course, never give up or let someone tell you that you can’t.

What’s next in your dance career?
I still want to perform because I have more to say. I’m still enjoying it. I’m also ready to have more of a voice, so I’d like to start focusing on choreography. I teach all over the world and will continue to do that. I will create and collaborate with other dancers and choreographers that I love and respect. I just want to contribute to the evolution of dance.

I just want to contribute to the evolution of dance.

 

Words by Sarah Kearns
Photos by Tia Liu
Makeup by Michaeline Becker

Originally published in Volume II, Issue No. 002 – Spring 2017.

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