How can we make classical ballet more diverse?

It’s a question people have been asking for a long time. Today, there’s big news from American Ballet Theater, which today announced a new initiative, Project Plié, which aims to fix the fact that American ballet is white white super white:

American Ballet Theatre (ABT) has announced the formation of Project Plié, a comprehensive initiative to increase racial and ethnic representation in ballet and to diversify America’s ballet companies. Project Plié seeks to combine training and support of ballet students and dance teachers from communities previously underrepresented in American ballet companies with the creation of a nationwide partner network of professional ballet companies who are committed to diversity. In addition, Project Plié will include a new partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America to introduce participants to ballet and identify children for future training.

“In launching Project Plié, American Ballet Theatre aims to take an important step toward helping the classical ballet profession better reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of our country’s population,” said Rachel S. Moore, CEO of American Ballet Theatre. “This initiative can assist ballet students from diverse backgrounds in reaching their full potential by providing them with the support and active engagement of teachers, mentors and current professional dancers. We sincerely believe that diversifying the art form at its training level will strengthen and broaden the pipeline of future artists and help ensure ballet’s continued relevance and excellence in the 21st century.”

And now, here’s a video of one of the most prominent proponents of racial and ethnic diversity in American ballet, Misty Copeland, because she’s amazing and it’s Friday.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • Vaneeesa Blaylock

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful news Chloe! The struggle for diversity is so important and in so many ways we’ve barely scratched the surface on this journey. It’s funny that we have such a strong tendency for homophily when I’m convinced that all the good in this world comes from diversity. Besides being a somewhat racist statement, I think the familiar “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” on the back of your iPhone is an homage to diversity. It can’t be suggesting that the waters of the San Francisco Bay are somehow more noble or more inspiring than the waters of the Pearl River Delta. I think it leverages the idea that California is a creative place because it is a place of great diversity.

    I haven’t danced ballet for a long time now, but I did take class for many years. I always loved the sense of identity and the inner strength it gave me. Even so, I worry about ballet. It’s interesting that your previous post was just about Beauty Pageants. I wonder how much of ballet appreciation has some spectre of beauty pageant?

    I have no doubt that remarkable artists like Misty Copeland and the many other women and men who dedicate themselves to ballet are thinking in terms far away from anything so banal. Still, I do think that for some the ballerina does have an aspect of fetishization. Painters have long bristled at the idea that the fruit of their blood, sweat, and tears is being collected because it matches someone’s living room decor. I’d never deny the integrity or the vision of these artists, but I also believe that the centuries long buoyancy, survival, and success of painting does, in part, have its interior decor function to thank for that longevity. Similarly there is no doubt about the hard work, artistry, and dedication of great dancers, but it’s also true that they’re easy on the cultural eyes. Add in the lack of diversity you’ve addressed and you have to wonder a little about the dynamics of the ballet-going experience.

    For sure diversity initiatives can only build a richer artform and a more inclusive experience. There’s no doubt that this is good news. I hope that ABT really sees this through in meaningful ways. And thanks for the wonderful Misty Copeland video – amazing any day of the week.