When we first announced in December that the International Association of Blacks in Dance was hosting its inaugural ballet audition for women of color, the reactions were mixed. Readers took to social media and beyond to dialogue with the dance community. Some praised IABD's initiative. Others concluded that, unfortunately, auditions of this kind were necessary to provide opportunities for black dancers. Yet others asked if an audition for women of color was racist or overly exclusive. Regardless, all were curious. What would an audition like this look like, and what would be the outcomes?
The video below takes you inside IABD's January 24 audition, which was attended by 87 women. Although the skill and age of the dancers varies greatly, seeing that many black ballet dancers in one place is a rare and powerful sight. Several dancers of mixed race did participate, and based on this video's interviews with some of the auditionees, the spirit of inclusion was a large theme of the day. Artistic staff from more than a dozen ballet schools and companies evaluated the dancers, and they ultimately offered 25 scholarships and invited four dancers to attend their own company's auditions.
Frederic Franklin in Valerie Bettis' A Streetcar Named Desire (1952). Photo courtesy DM Archives
In the June 1974 issue of Dance Magazine, our cover subject was the endlessly charming Frederic Franklin, then 60 years old. After declaring at the age of 4 that he was "going to be in the theater," the Liverpool-born dancer spent a lifetime doing exactly that.