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Diversity in the Houston Dance World

"You want fame? Well, fame costs...and right here is where you start sweat."

~ Miss Grant/Fame

Houston is the fourth largest nation in the United States and is growing swiftly in diversity. With this growth, comes the transformation of Houston’s culture. There are new restaurants, art exhibits, and unique dance performances. Houston is constantly changing, but is the dance world changing along with it?

According to Pointe Magazine, “ballet blanc” is a term used to describe the ballet world. Countless performances of dancers in white tutus, and tights, and performing as white swans can imply that ballet was created for one type of person. At the beginning of ballet’s creation, it was to be an elite dance form. It was an activity performed by the European nobility at celebrations such as weddings. King Henry II of France’s wife, Catherine de Medici, exposed ballet to the French courts. King Louis XIV made the art form popular during his rule and it continued to expand.

Ballet is now performed by people from all around the world. Dancers come from many different backgrounds to pursue this art form but at a price. Sacrifice is inevitable when becoming a professional dancer – especially a ballet dancer. Many seek training through scholarship programs associated with performance companies, dance education programs, or through other sponsorships. Whichever route a ballet dancer takes; it will be an expensive one. This fact alone may contribute to the conceived notion that ballet lacks diversity.

The dancer demographic in the Houston area. - Infographic

Created by: Zondra Victor

Ballet classes may cost up to even more than $500 every season. Writer Joseph Carman, of Pointe Magazine, emphasizes that there aren’t any role models for underrepresented communities in the U.S.

“A lack of role models for aspiring dancers to emulate;” Carman states. “A failure on the part of schools and companies to provide support for young dancers of color on the uphill road to professional success.”

Carman also goes on to state that Houston lacks diversity in its ballet company as well. He points out that the Houston Ballet has 10 Asian dancers and only two African American dancers (who are male) out of a company of 47. These numbers may be in the ballpark, but Houston is making strides to give opportunities to people from many different socio-economic backgrounds.

Founder of Houston City Dance, Sherese Campbell, is making a mark for her community. In 1994, she created her company formerly known as City Dance, Inc., to bring together dancers from many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds to dance a form of ballet personalized to her very own style. The company is steadily growing.

The Houston Dance Lab is also making strides to give the Houston community a more affordable education in dance. The Lab Performing Arts Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to producing dancers and advocators for the arts community. Students with perceived potential receive scholarships to train in Houston as well as throughout the nation.

It may not seem as though Houston is diverse in the ballet world, but the city is on its way.

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