Rant & Rave

Ballet Companies: Stop Tokenizing Dancers of Color in Your Marketing Materials

Precious Adams is not cast as Odette/Odile, but is the face of ENB's marketing campaign. Screenshot via English National Ballet's website

Fans of the sublime English National Ballet first artist Precious Adams were probably excited to see her image splashed across the company's website in a promotional image for an upcoming production of Swan Lake.

But those who took a closer look were met with a disappointing reality: Adams, who is the only black woman in the company, is not listed on the principal casting sheet for the production.


Luke Jennings, dance critic at The Observer, first pointed out the issue on Twitter, and the company responded:

Yes, Adams is only a first artist, so it would have been unusual—though not unheard of—to see her perform Odette/Odile. And the company argues that the photo depicts her as Lead Swan, a respectable but not particularly significant role. But wouldn't anyone looking at the photo assume that Adams would be playing Odette?

It's a misleading choice at best; a manipulative one at worst. But ENB isn't the only company to use dancers of color in their marketing more than they feature them onstage. New York City Ballet prominently features black dancers Olivia Boisson and Christopher Grant in their marketing, but rarely casts them in proportionate roles. (They feature some of their other dancers of color—like Rachel Hutsell and Preston Chamblee—rather frequently, too, but at least these dancers get the roles to match.)

This is not an argument for whitewashed marketing. But companies can't slot dancers of color into their photoshoots and marketing videos to make themselves appear "diverse"—a term that has come to be a commodity for institutions vying for funding and audiences—and then not give them casting opportunities (or promotions, for that matter). This amounts to tokenism, and taking advantage of dancers who deserve better.

So please, use images of your dancers of color. (We know how powerful representation is for aspiring dancers, after all.) But also cast them. Invest in their success. Promote them. Acknowledge the emotional labor that it takes to be an artist of color in such a white art form. Because otherwise, the image of "diversity" you're hoping to portray is just a sham.

The Conversation
Just for Fun

As Dance Magazine editors, we admittedly spend more time than we'd like sifting through stock photography. Some of it is good, more of it is bad and most of it is just plain awkward.

But when paired with the right caption, those shots magically transform from head-scratchers to meme-worthy images that illustrate our singular experience as dancers. You can thank the internet for this special salute to dancer moods.

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
Wayne McGregor. Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy ROH

It's no surprise that dancers make some of the best TED Talk presenters. Not only are they great performers, but they've got unique knowledge to share. And they can dance!

If you're in need of a midweek boost, look no further than these eight presentations from some incredibly inspiring dance artists.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Including this extraordinary Travis Wall number for "So You Think You Can Dance" (Adam Rose/FOX)

The Primetime Emmy Award nominations are out! Congrats to the seven choreographers who earned nods for their exceptional TV work this year. Notably, that work was made for just two shows, "So You Think You Can Dance" and "World of Dance."

And there was a particularly remarkable snub: While the dance-filled hit "Fosse/Verdon" earned 17 nominations across many of the major categories, Andy Blankenbuehler's fabulous Fosse remixes weren't recognized in the Outstanding Choreography field.

Here are all the dance routines up for Emmys:

Keep reading... Show less
Rant & Rave

abezikus/Getty Images

"Dancers can do everything these days," I announced to whoever was in earshot at the Jacob's Pillow Archives during a recent summer. I had just been dazzled by footage of a ballet dancer performing hip hop, remarkably well. But my very next thought was, What if that isn't always a good thing? What if what one can't do is the very thing that lends character?

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox