Rant & Rave

A Dancer Is Suing Her School District For Excluding Her Because She Was "Too Dark"

Via Facebook

Camille Sturdivant, a former member of the Blue Valley Northwest High School dance team is suing the school district, alleging that she was barred from performing in a dance because her skin was "too dark."

The suit states that during Sturdivant's senior year, the Dazzlers' choreographer, Kevin Murakami, would not allow her to perform in a contemporary dance because he said her skin would clash with the costumes, and that she would steal focus from the other dancers because of her skin color.


When Sturdivant and her parents complained to the school's principal, Amy Pressly, they were told that the dance team coach, Carley Fine, was free to choose whoever she wanted for the dance.

The lawsuit also says that last May, after Sturdivant found out that she made the dance team at the University of Missouri, she borrowed Fine's phone to cue up music for a dance. She discovered a text conversation between Fine and Murakami, where Fine implied that Sturdivant had only made the team because she was black, and that it "hurt her stomach" to think of Sturdivant being on the team.

Fine was fired the next day, and was barred from coming on school property or having contact with members of the Dazzlers. However, the lawsuit claims that Fine did return to the school, and participate in team dinners and gatherings with the Dazzlers that Sturdivant was excluded from, including a banquet that had been officially canceled.

After Fine's firing, dance team members (excluding Sturdivant and the only other black dancer on the team) wore ribbons on their uniforms with the initials "CF" in support of the coach.

The school district has denied that Sturdivant's civil rights were violated, claiming that they were not aware of Murakami's statement, and that they were not responsible for what happened during non-school events, such as the team dinners.

The suit seeks an unspecified amount in damages for six counts including discrimination and failure to adequately train Pressly and Fine.

But whether or not she wins, Sturdivant's suit is making an impact: 435 Magazine reports that last month, the dance program at BVNHS was suspended "because the district determined that the Blue Valley Northwest Dazzler Dance Program has not met district expectations. The District suspended the program while efforts are being made to rebuild it into a positive, healthy experience for our students." The school district has also implemented bias training for administrators and coaches, and changed its hiring practices for coaches.

Dancer Voices
Silas Farley in his Songs from the Spirit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Farley

I dance to encourage others. The longer I dance, the more I see that much of my real work is to speak life-giving words to my fellow artists. This is a multidimensionally grueling profession. I count it a privilege to remind my colleagues of how they are bringing beauty into the world through their craft. I recently noticed significant artistic growth in a fellow dancer, and when I verbalized what I saw, he beamed. The impact of positive feedback is deeper than we realize.

Keep reading... Show less
UA Dance Ensemble members Candice Barth and Gregory Taylor in Jessica Lang's "Among the Stars." Photo by Ed Flores, courtesy University of Arizona

If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.

The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Alice Sheppard/Kinetic Light in DESCENT, which our readers chose as last year's "Most Moving Performance." Photo by Jay Newman, courtesy Kinetic Light

Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.

We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Training
Robin Worrall via Unsplash

Social media has made the dance world a lot smaller, giving users instant access to artists and companies around the world. For aspiring pros, platforms like Instagram can offer a tantalizing glimpse into the life of a working performer. But there's a fine line between taking advantage of what social media can offer and relying too heavily on it.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox