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Ruth gave up ballet because she didn’t have the “colour of a ballerina” – and created a school where there were no barriers |  United kingdom

Ruth gave up ballet because she didn’t have the “colour of a ballerina” – and created a school where there were no barriers | United kingdom

It was commentary on her braided Afro hair that prompted Ruth Issel to create what she calls a safe space for black dancers. As a child, the founder of the Point Black Ballet School in London was punished by teachers and assistants for not fitting the traditional image of a ballerina. Deep down, it was as if Ruth was using her skin color for some kind of rebellion.

“I will never forget the first time I was about to dance on stage [teatro] “West End,” he says, describing the moment when, aged 10, he began a final rehearsal, proudly wearing his hair in a braid, a hairstyle that cost his single mother €115. Pride turned to shame when the teacher pointed to her in the middle of a group of dancers, most of them white, and said, “You’re going to get all those squiggly lines out of your hair because it’s a mess.”

This was just one of several instances in which Ruth felt that being different was a “difficult choice” on her part. “This all happened before I was 16 and I didn’t know what to do,” he says.

However, the comments inspired a vice-chairman of a department at the Royal College of Psychiatrists to set up Point Black in 2020. He was 26. “I wanted there to be a black environment. I wanted people who looked like me. I wanted a teacher who looked like me.”

For all this, mind you, it was very motivating to finally use it Socks And the shoes made for her instead of the traditional pink shoes worn by ballet dancers. “It was closer to my color,” he explains.

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Traditional image of a ballerina Ballet remains lighthearted in tone, although the art form – which originated in the Italian Renaissance as court entertainment – has expanded globally and has well-known dancers in Asia, South America and Cuba. On the other hand, classical ballet companies strive for a uniform look, especially in works such as Swan LakeWhich makes it difficult to hire or promote racist dancers.

In addition, about 2.2% of dancers in the UK’s four major ballet companies are black, Sandy Bourne, a British Dance Research Society committee member, said in her 2017 doctoral thesis.

“We are determined to make our theater a welcoming and inclusive place for all,” a company spokesperson at The Royal Ballet said. A representative of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), whose curriculum is taught around the world, highlights that “dance is for everyone”. “Ensuring diversity in the world of dance is important to everyone at RAD,” he adds. Ruth wants to accelerate change and disconnect from the world the current situation.

“We incorporate African musical steps and styles into our shows. I have African hair, I have braids, I have curly waves, I have twists, I have African curls. The goal is to really celebrate the person, no matter where they are from.”

Ten-year-old Maya Bell Springer is a student at Point Black and another dance teacher He likes to try different styles. “I can try different types of ballet, different music,” says the aspiring astrophysicist after a solo rehearsal for a show. “I love ballet, so I would like to keep doing it, but hopefully my career won’t get in the way.” .

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Ruth, who teaches in all grades, sees the school as a safe space for black dancers to receive advice and a way to create a community network of studios, dancers and teachers.

“When I was 15, I wanted to go to dance colleges, but I was frustrated because they told me the ballet world wasn’t ready for someone who looked like me,” she recalls. “Everything in my school is what I wanted when I was younger,” he concludes.