IABD's 2019 men's ballet audition. Photo by Eric A. Smith of CREW Productions, Courtesy IABD
Since they were first offered in 2016, the International Association of Blacks in Dance's ballet auditions for dancers of color have sparked much debate within the dance community. Some believe these auditions create valuable opportunities for dancers of color while others disagree, even going so far as calling them slightly racist.
The International Association of Blacks in Dance's annual audition for ballet dancers of color. Photo by E. Mesiyah McGinnis, Courtesy IABD
A newly launched initiative hopes to change the face of ballet, both onstage and behind the scenes. Called "The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet," the three-year initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a partnership between Dance Theatre of Harlem, the International Association of Blacks in Dance and Dance/USA.
"We've seen huge amounts of change in the years since 1969, when Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded," says Virginia Johnson, artistic director of DTH. "But change is happening much too slowly, and it will continue to be too slow until we come to a little bit more of an awareness of what the underlying issues are and what needs to be done to address them."
The brainchild of Joan Myers Brown (founder of both Philadanco and IABD), the women's audition was created to specifically address the lack of black females in ballet. However, the success and attention that audition drew made the men feel left out, so IABD decided to give the men equal time this year.