Despite the current lack of diversity in ballet, the history of blacks in ballet is rich with pioneers such as Joseph Rickard, whose First Negro Classic Ballet debuted in 1947, and Arthur Mitchell, who with Karel Shook founded the Dance Theater of Harlem in 1969. Amidst a growing concern for change and diversity, American Ballet Theater (ABT) has devised an initiative creating needed opportunities.
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 Theater 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 Theater. “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.”
Beginning Fall 2013, Project Plié will award the following annual scholarships to promising students, aged 9-18: 15 Full Scholarships to attend the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theater Children’s and Pre-Professional Divisions; 15 Full Scholarships to attend ABT’s Summer Intensive Programs, five of which will include housing stipends; and 10 Full Scholarships to ABT’s Young Dancer Summer Workshop in New York City, a two-week program for young dancers, aged 9-12.
Scholarship recipients will be identified through auditions conducted throughout the United States and nominations made by ABT Certified Teachers during the company’s 25-city Summer Intensive audition tour and at master classes held in all five boroughs of New York City. Project Plié scholarship recipients will be eligible to receive comprehensive training in classical dance; financial assistance for uniforms, shoes and travel; and access to academic tutoring, health assessments, career guidance and mentoring from ABT’s dancers and teaching staff.