‣ How can ballet companies in particular be better at promoting diversity in a historically elitist art form?
ELE: First they have to understand this is the history of the art form. And understand that people challenging the lack of representation, the lack of inclusive spaces, is not tearing down individuals. If you are saying “I don’t really know how to make my company more diverse”, well,
- What are you doing right now?
- What is the system of recruiting?
- What is the system of casting?
- What is the system of all the things you are doing?
And then find where there are areas of improvement there.
I think people, especially in a dance space, don’t want to fail; they want to be perfect in this elitist art form, right? But it’s important to understand you might make some mistakes but you’ve just got to fix them, you’ve got to do better. You might be like “Oh, I thought this was a great way in!” and someone tells you “Oh, no it’s not”… then this is okay! Just do better next time.
‣ It sounds like we are in a place where solutions need to be the next step.
KB: Erica always says, “Don’t expect acceptance, demand inclusion”. And that’s the point we’re at. This system has been built this way and maintained and that doesn’t seem to be working for the people who are not participating. And so we have to look at the system and make edits to allow for more people to participate.
‣ As a follow up question, do you think there’s a possibility that ballet companies (who generally work as separate entities) can come together to help improve diversity standards?
ELE: There are cohorts that have been created to do exactly what you said. There have been cohorts created based on authenticity, based on truth, and based on real solutions. There have also been cohorts created based on inaccuracies and checklists. Leaders in the ballet world have been a part of both types.
Where is the change coming from? It’s from the first one.
Who is doing the work authentically because they care and believe in this? And who is doing this to get people off their back? And it’s very clear what side you are on as a leader when you are doing this work.
‣ I think that’s a really great point because there are a lot of pressures from people running companies to make money and to do certain things and it’s an interesting line in the sand. Like you were saying, what side are you on? And maybe it’s more about doing the hard work up front.
ELE: Yeah, absolutely. Because if you are just saying “Oh, there’s not enough Black people here, let me put them in here”, well you haven’t created the space for them to feel good in your company. It’s not just about filling spots, right?
Let’s figure out all the other problems that are in our organization where people don’t want to be here, or they came here and they left because they’re like “this is not where I would want anyone to be dealing with these challenges”.
There are some cohorts that are doing authentic work and there are some that are not.