Photo Credit: Tony Anderson
An All-Black Nutcracker Is Coming To Philly With Hopes Of Making It More Accessible
There’s an all-Black Nutcracker performance coming to Philly this winter. For Chanel Holland, the founder of the Chocolate Ballerina Company in South Philadelphia, the one-day performance of “Nutcracker: Dipped in Chocolate,” is about making ballet more accessible.
“I never felt like I saw myself in ‘Swan Lake’ when I went to see it at the Met,” Holland told WHYY News. “I never felt like I was being well represented in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Academy of Music from Pennsylvania Ballet.”
Ballet has been slow in accepting dancers of colors in major companies, as Black dancers in ballet are estimated to make up just 5%.
For the ones who do make it, they are offered limited roles. In a lot of cases, many Black ballerinas also face a concerted effort from industry leaders that makes them feel unwanted.
Recently, Germany’s leading ballet agreed to pay its first and only Black ballerina, Chloé Lopes Gomes, $19,346.40 after a lawsuit was filed against the company for discrimination in the workplace.
Gomes described a hostile work environment where she was told on multiple occasions that she didn’t fit in because of her skin color, as Travel Noire previously reported.
A lack of representation because industry leaders are slow to accept Black ballerinas is such part of the problem. Opportunity is the other issue as pre-professional ballet lessons could cost more than $100,000.
The cost barriers are what inspire Holland to launch The Chocolate Ballerina Company in 2017. She offers free ballet lessons, free dancewear, such as leotards, open rehearsals, and free tickets to summer performances.
The all-Black Nutcracker: Dipped in Chocolate, is expected to take place on Dec. 18. And while the venue has not been announced just yet, the second round of auditions is underway and will take place on Sept. 11 in Baltimore.