Time to celebrate the intricate and artistic dance known as ballet! Composed of precise and graceful movements that take great strength and agility, Black dancers were mainly turned away from pursuing the art form on a professional level until choreographers Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook established the Dance Theater of Harlem in 1969. Women like Lydia Abarca-Mitchell, Gayle McKinney-Griffith, and Sheila Rohan, who were founding dancers with the company, helped pave the way for so many talented prima donnas. That includes Misty Copeland, who pushed the door even wider when she was named the first African American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre in 2015.
Leap for joy this World Ballet Day as EBONY gives a standing ovation to three contemporary Black ballerinas who are changing its artistic landscape for the better.
A member of de corps de ballet for the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), Courtney Lavine is making history as one of the five dancers starring in Lifted, ABT's first all-Black production. Lavine began her dance training at 8 years old. She received a full scholarship to study at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington and joined the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company in 2008. She became an apprentice with ABT's main company and joined its corps de ballet in 2010. Lavine has danced major roles in Giselle, Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
Ginabel Peterson has trained across the country, from the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington and the Indiana University Ballet Theatre to the San Francisco Ballet School. She joined Seattle's Pacific Northwest Ballet as a member of its corps de ballet in 2021. There, Peterson has performed in William Christensen’s The Nutcracker, Nicolo Fonte’s Piece of My Heart, Pamela Robinson’s Snow White and Adam Sklute’s Giselle. She is currently on her toes, performing in Pacific Northwest’s 50th anniversary season.
French-born dancer Marie-Astrid Mence is a member of Ballet Black, a professional ballet company that celebrates dancers of Black and Asian descent. She trained at the Higher National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Paris and was a member of the Junior Ballet of Paris. Mence has danced in works by Jiří Kylián, William Forsythe and Larry Keigwin. She crossed the ocean to train at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City, where she performed in the legendary choreographer's masterpiece, Revelations. Mence joined Ballet Black in 2014, where she appeared in pieces such as Dogs Don’t Do Ballet and Second Coming. After a brief stint with the Phoenix Dance Company, she returned to Ballet Black in 2017, and was promoted to Senior Artist at the start of the 2020-2021 season.