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A note on Anti-blackness in Ballet

Sometimes the anti-blackness of the ballet is subtle, as it creeps in through the backdoor and greets you as a microagression. My sister once talked with a dance director about how she wanted her hair styled for an upcoming photoshoot, because of course, simple things like hair and make-up often require a side bar with the teacher and a diversion from the original eurocentric request/look. The director told my sister to wear her hair out, which meant that her 4C textured hair would be in an afro. On the day of the shoot, the director was taken aback by the appearance of my sister's hair. Perhaps she figured that after all these years of slicking back her hair as much as possible to emulate her non-Black peers, the blackness would just wash out of her hair like shampoo. She said to my sister “your hair looks nice, but are you trying to make a political statement?" Decades after the Black Power era, the iconography of the movement with afros worn by Black Panthers at the forefront still burned in mind of white America. Um, no?" my sister confusingly replied. The director must have thought when she instructed my sister to wear her hair down, it would look more Beyoncé’s and less like Assata Shakur’s.

Written by Micherlange Hemsley

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