Dancing in the Margins: Experiences of African American Ballerinas

Nyama McCarthy-Brown
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“Where are all the Black Swans?” Gia Kourlas asked in 2007. The question begs to be answered, yet in my search for “black swans,” I found few leading light-skinned swans and even fewer leading dark-skinned ones. Color casting has riddled the African-American community throughout the American history. The divisions within the African-American community have been an unpleasant cornerstone of the African-American experience. They did not simply exist in the African-American community but seeped into all sectors of society where African-American people were and are present. This paper explores how these issues have been influential in American ballet and reveals the color casting that is rarely addressed. The significance of this persisting issue is not so much its presence, which has been noted time and time again, yet its inability to evolve.


McCarthy-Brown, Nyama. “Dancing in the Margins: Experiences of African American Ballerinas,” Journal of African American Studies Vol. 15, Iss. 3, 385-408 (2011).