Houston Matters

Why Aren’t There More Ballet Dancers of Color? Discussing Diversity in Dance

Ballet has found itself struggling to keep up with the times when it comes to diversifying. For more than 200 years, ballet positions like the arabesque and Plié have endured almost unchanged, but today the dancers performing these moves are no longer always white. Houston, which prides itself on being the most diverse city in America, has actually […]

Harper Watters - Jordan Matter - Houston Ballet

Ballet has found itself struggling to keep up with the times when it comes to diversifying. For more than 200 years, ballet positions like the arabesque and Plié have endured almost unchanged, but today the dancers performing these moves are no longer always white.

Houston, which prides itself on being the most diverse city in America, has actually been on the cutting edge of this change: former company member Lauren Anderson was the first African American principal ballerina for a major ballet company anywhere in the nation. Meanwhile, at the American Ballet Theatre in New York, a young black woman named Misty Copeland is today making headlines as only the fourth African-American soloist there and the only black woman to spend her entire career with the prestigious company.

(MORE: Houston Ballet Dancer Jim Nowakowski Performs on So You Think You Can Dance)

This lack of diversity is a problem acknowledged throughout the ballet world. To learn more, producer Paige Phelps sat down with current Houston Ballet company member Harper Watters, a young black man, who said he initially imagined himself joining a traditionally black dance company because people looked more like him. He talks about his thoughts on race and traditional ballet roles, what needs to happen to break down barriers, and, of course, So You Think You Can Dance. Paige began by asking him, “Why ballet?”

MORE: Houston Ballet Dancer Jim Nowakowski Performs on So You Think You Can Dance:

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