For years, many ballet companies have had minimum spots for Black dancers to rank as principal dancers. In some cases, Black dancers are still overlooked for the prestigious promotion in such organizations. However, seeing Black dancers continuously make history and perform in major ballet companies as principal dancers is motivation and empowerment for the upcoming generation of Black dancers.
Jonathan Batista became the first Black principal dancer In The Pacific Northwest Ballet during the company’s 50-year celebration. The dancer, from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, joined the organization last year as a soloist after dancing with Oklahoma City Ballet for four years.
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According to The Seattle Medium, Batista graduated from English National Ballet School and has studied in some of the most prestigious intensives. The dancer often found himself as the only Black dancer on stage as he traveled the world to perform with legendary companies like Miami City Ballet and Boston Ballet.
“This is a moment for us,” Batista said about becoming the first Black principal dancer in the history of the Pacific Northwest Ballet. “Being the first Black dancer in 50 years of Pacific Northwest Ballet, this is a moment for young Black boys, young Black girls, that want to dance, that want to see themselves on that stage,” Batista added.
KOUW reports that out of the 46 dancers at The Pacific Northwest Ballet, Batista is one of the nine who identify as Black. The newly promoted dancer recalled what it felt like to officially be a part of the highest-ranked dancers in the ballet company.
“It is such an honor to be in this position,” he said. “It also is a moment where I think, ‘Wow, it took 50 years for [a] Black man, for [a] Black person, to become a principal dancer.’”
The disciplined dancer has moved up in his dance career and is noted alongside other Black soloists in the Pacific Northwest Ballet, including the late Kabby Mitchell, who was the first Black man to join the company in 1979, and Laura Brown, the first Black woman to join the company back in 1980.