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The Story of the Brown Ballerina

Priscilla Ward | AFROPUNK   in 
February 25, 2015

Though my memory is a bit hazy now, I once wanted to wear a pink tutu, point shoes and make boundless magic on a stage, glowing—like so many other little girls wearing their mother’s DIY platted hairstyles. My mom put me in ballet lessons when I was 5. I stood there at the ballet bare, my every plié and move to arabesque over analyzed, each one critiqued. The first time my parents gifted me with a trip to see the Nutcracker, that’s when I thought I had my whole life figured out. I’d work through all my routines, and be there in that spotlight one day. Just like that. I was 9. My Teen Spirit smelling black body moved in these white spaces, sticking out and becoming aware of how hard getting there would be. Finally, there’s a narrative that so many little black ballerinas in barrettes can identify with—like my once younger self.

By Priscilla Ward, AFROPUNK Contributor 

Cassidy Jade is the director of ‘Brown Ballerina’ and she is doing our dreams some justice. She is the CEO and Founder of Crown Me Royal Labs. Her film explores what happens when a black ballerina steps outside of the black artist framework, and into white studios where their very existence is questioned. “The [Miami based] filmmaker’s mission is to defy stereotypes one plié at a time! Touching on issues of race, politics and social class Brown Ballerina explores the full spectrum of ballet, giving viewers a glimpse into a world that before now was inaccessible,” stated in a press release.

“When was there any part of you that said I can’t do this?” First female African American principle dancer, Lauren Anderson responds: “Absolutely not, there were people doing it, so I’m a person and I can do it!”
- “I chose dance, but then it chose me and I didn’t have a choice.”

– “I had to find a way to slim down…after I did pilates I became a soloist.”
- “I didn’t realize there weren’t other black ballerinas, then I looked around and saw there was Virgina Johnson who I looked up to and she was it!”
- “We are perceived as strong, exotic and sexy, never vulnerable and dainty. You don’t think of a black woman as vulnerable and dainty.”

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