Tag: DANCE

Brown Point Shoes Arrive, 200 Years After White Ones

ballerina

Ballet dancers of color have long painted, dyed or covered point shoes in makeup to match their skin. Could this small barrier to inclusion finally be disappearing?

For nearly her whole career, Cira Robinson has — like many ballet dancers of color — performed a ritual: Painting her point shoes to match her skin.

She did it first in 2001, when she was 15, at a summer program with Dance Theater of Harlem. The company said her shoes needed to be brown, not the traditional pink, but she couldn’t find any in stores, so she used spray paint. “It made them crunchy and just … ew,” she said in a telephone interview.

When she joined Dance Theater a few years later, she started using makeup instead. “I’d go to the cheapest stores and get foundation,” she said, the kind “you’d never put on your face as it’d break you out. Like, $2.95 cheap.”

She’d go through five tubes a week, sponging it onto 12 to 15 pairs of shoes — a process known in ballet circles as pancaking. It took 45 minutes to an hour to do a pair, she said, because she wanted to make sure the foundation got into every crevice and covered every bit of ribbon.

Did she find these steps annoying? “I didn’t know any different,” Ms. Robinson, 32, said.

But now, Ms. Robinson — a senior artist at Ballet Black, a British dance company — is no longer obliged to do so. In October, Freed of London, which supplies her shoes, started selling two point shoes specifically for dancers of color: One brown, the other bronze.

Freed is not the first firm to make point shoes for dancers of color — the American company Gaynor Minden has been producing some more than a year — but the new shoes from Freed, a large supplier in the ballet world, highlight one of the stranger rituals that dancers of color have to perform.

It’s also a reminder that black dancers — especially female ones — are still a rarity in ballet. They remain barely represented at the top of the field, despite some signs of change and an increased awareness of the need for diversity at the schools feeding professional companies.

Shoes aren’t the only costuming reminders of the lack of diversity in ballet. In September, Precious Adams, a first artist at English National Ballet raised the issue of pink tights. “In ballet people have very strong ideas about tradition,” she told London’s Evening Standard newspaper. “They think me wearing brown tights in a tutu is somehow ‘incorrect.’”

B.O.B. TALKS ‘HIP-HOP DANCE EXPERIENCE,’ NEW MIXTAPE, WORKING WITH TAYLOR SWIFT

The ATLien B.o.B. has landed. After taking his fans through the Adventures of Bobby Ray andStrange Clouds, the Grand Hustle signee is throwing his middle fingers in the air on his new mixtape Fuck Em We Ball. The newly turned 24-year-old chopped it up with VIBE about working with Taylor Swift, tackling new genres, dancing to his own songs on the video game The Hip Hop Dance Experience. and more.

VIBE: Congrats on being the only artist to place two tracks “So Good” and “Airplanes” on the The Hip Hop Dance Experience. Have you tried dancing to them in the video game?
B.o.B.: I’ve tried to “So Good,” but haven’t to “Airplanes” yet. I actually watched two of my dancers perform to “Airplanes.”

Were you able to get through it?
I scored, let’s just say that.

Does the game make it easy to follow along with or do you need Michael Jackson skills?
Nah, You don’t need to be a Michael Jackson or a Chris Brown to play this game but I would say it really makes you feel like you’re in a music video, like you’re performing it for real. They really took the time to pay attention to the artists and their videos for the songs they put in the game.

Were there other songs that you tried to dance to?
Yeah, I tried dancing to Chris Brown “Look at Me Now.”

You were being overambitious huh?
(Laughs) It was on rookie mode. It really looked like the set on the video. It’s pretty accurate.

Serious question. Do you know how to “Gangnam Style?”
(Laughs) No I don’t. I don’t know how to Gangnam Style. I’ve been seeing the phenomenon take the world by storm. I’ve never tried it myself but I’m gonna have to check that out.

This past summer, you collaborated with Taylor Swift. How did that come about?
Taylor Swift was on tour and she invited a lot of her hip-hop friends on stage with her. She stopped in Atlanta and invited me, Grand Hustle and Usher, but I wasn’t there. She still wanted to reach out and she brought me out to Dallas. I just had a record that was good and I thought, ‘Let me just play this for her and see of if she likes it.’ I played [“Both Of Us”] for her and before the verse even dropped, her eyes were watering up. She was like “Yes, I wanna be a part of this song.” And the rest is history.

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