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Dance forecast

Why can't ballet cope with black bodies?

By Nadine Meisner   April 2004

Dance theatre of Harlem is back, proving that ballet doesn’t have to be a uniform line-up of white faces. Its 70-year-old co-founder Arthur Mitchell was the first black dancer to perform on a ballet stage as a principal at a time when black dancers were pretty much limited to tap or jazz. He was given his chance by George Balanchine, who brought him into New York City Ballet and in 1957 cast him in Agon, where he partnered a white woman in a pas de deux of seething eroticism. Little has changed since: ballet companies have failed to become colour-blind.

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