December 15, 2020
This video features ballet dancer Chloe Lopes Gomes without providing information about the challenges for people of color who pursue a career in ballet.
The tradition of uniformity within ballet dance companies is being challenged as more people of color enter a sphere dominated by whiteness. The use of whitening makeup to create a uniform look for dancers has been a longstanding practice. As ballet companies have become more diverse and sensitive to racial issues, most have stopped the practice or left it up to the individual dancers.
During her two years at Staatsballett Berlin, Chloe Lopes Gomes experienced racially insensitive incidents which included being required to use makeup to make herself look white. In September she was told her contract was not being renewed at the end of the season. Gomes is the only Black female dancer at the Staatsballett Berlin—one of the largest ballet companies in Western Europe. She believes her dismissal was racially motivated. The ballet’s artistic director denied that accusation saying the contracts of 12 dancers were not renewed for “artistic reasons.”
“This has been my dream since I saw ‘Swan Lake’ when I was 8 years old,” says Gomes. “At that time, everyone onstage was white. I would like to think it doesn’t have to be like that any more.”