If you are going to be racist, keep it to yourself. If you are going to be nasty and you are going to come for me, my friends, or my dancers… watch your face. I will not stand by and let you just crap all over people, especially kids… Because I make the concious choice to illustrate dancers to reflect people in my life, or what I want out of ballet doesn’t give you the right to place your racist mom opinion on social media.
This week, I released two major feats for me: The Guide to Pas De Deux and The Nutcracker: Party Scene.
As I illustrated both of these, I made a point to make sure that I represented dancers of color. What I didn’t expect is some of the nasty backlash that happened via email, social media and blog comments. Luckily, all comments have to be approved, because some of the comments were just nasty. This month I have been trying so hard to be classy and rise above some of the racial issues in dance right now… And then… some mom from Texas decided to write me on why she wouldn’t be purchasing a Clara/Marie/Masha product:
“She really doesn’t represent the character and isn’t relatable to most ballerinas out there.”
I about lost my sh!t, and truthfully, I probably responded way too fast and will probably regret it later… I probably won’t. So, why is it so hard to picture Clara to be a young girl with black hair and tan skin? Ironically… one of my nuggets is Clara (Asian), a school in Los Angeles just announced their cast… all ethnic Masha’s. Another prestigious school just announced their claras and of the four, two are Asian. I am now on the search for images of professional companies with ethnic Claras… and, I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t find any related to a professional company… This was a follow up blow to a colleague telling me about her Asian student get made fun of for her “Flat chinese face”.
Then another mom wrote me asking me, “If it was a conscious choice of making Clara’s Family Asian and the maid white?” And saying that if it was a conscious choice she was disappointed in me and my brand, and went on and on about how she constantly feels punished for being white and this was just a reminder. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being white and I am not punishing you. Clearly, Ballerina Doll and Columbine Doll could be white girls, and one of my party girls is white, and a party Dad is a redhead. But, I also included dancers of different ethnic backgrounds as guests as well. And who is to say that Clara’s family is Asian? Because they have closed eyes and black hair?
A fun fact about illustrating this year’s Nutcracker… I wanted to illustrate enough to compile into a small book for my nieces (who are Asian and White) so they could see dancers who looked like them and their friends. Maybe next year I will do Clara as a redhead or even with purple hair to avoid this. But, this isn’t the bigger picture… The bigger picture was that there were no books portraying an ethnically diverse cast of Nutcracker and I was filling the void.
Then, I was told that it was great that I made all of these ethnic dancers in the pas de deux book, but was told, “You should have made the ethnic dancers more musclar.” WTF. Precious Adams (ENB), Amanda Morgan (PNB), Courtney Lavine (ABT)… Nardia Boodoo & Ashley Murphy (Washington Ballet)… The women of DTH… I could go on and on about the comparison of body types and then it would get petty…
This lead me to be angry, beyond angry that I had to take a break from social media and the computer, but then just became depressed. That this is the world we live in. It made me question if that is the reason why my Nutcracker Book from last year didn’t go print… Is it because they were all ethnic? Unfortunately, the majority of people who support ballet financially are white, and it seems that their opinions have such a strong weight it dictates careers. Well, we already knew that. Part of me is like I need a beacon of light. With everything that has happened over the past two months… I am like, dear baby Jesus… I need a break, peace, and happiness… Please…
Anyways… don’t forget to join Team Fritz! (click the pic or here to buy) Don’t forget the shirts are customizable on Redbubble!
Also don’t fret… Battle Scene and ACT II are coming!
Soldiers & Rats
Snow King and Queen
Sugarplum & Cavalier
22 responses to “Why Race Will Always Matter in Ballet…”
Wow! You are an incredible artist. I love your work!! You should express yourself however you want!! Thank you for making it available ❤️💃🏻
oh, David. i understand your anger and frustration and depression. how dare these people take out their own issues on you, when all you’re trying to do is make little girls and boys of all colours realise they can do whatever they dream of – not to mention the grown up ones too. it’s so important that kids see people they can identify with in the roles they aspire to – be it Clara in the Nutcracker, a scientist, or an astronaut. please just know there are some people out there who get what you are doing and applaud you. take care. x
The world we live in is a crappy place and people are the crappiest! Keep doing what you are doing….there will always be “those”
Keep up the GOOD work!!! 😍
Sent from my iPhone
Keep doing what you’re doing! It’s important work. The positivity you’re sending out to the cosmos will have a far greater impact than the negativity floating around.
As an African American Ballet teacher, I was thrilled to see your sketches and to hear your philosophy. I have students of all nationalities and they all need role models. They need to see professional dancers on stage that look like them, especially African American students. Thank you and I look forward to seeing more of your work. Pls let me know how I may assist you in developing your business.
Hi David, last year our first cast Clara at Kansas City Ballet was African American. She is the poster child on our marketing materials for our visit to the Kennedy Center. We have had students of color as our lead children characters as well in past productions. Casting is based on ability and charisma. We dalso received some discouraging emails when we launched our Nutcracker commercial and had several dancers young and mature of color in various roles. We always address these emails with a tone of intolerance to racism and acceptance of people for who they are not what color their skin is. Our Artistic Director and School Director are acutely aware of the challenges that our dancers of color face and we are doing everything we can to create equality. Racism has no place here at KCB.
The professional company I’ve seen for the past few years has had an Asian Clara, fyi. They also have children in the party scene with down syndrome. Because, why wouldn’t those with special needs enjoy a party? It makes it more true to life.
When I saw your pas de duex photo I was so pleased to see a black female with a white male.
Festival Ballet Providence
Great post! Keep up the good work. I personally love the diversity in your artwork.
Great post! I personally love the diversity in your artwork and you bring up a good subject… but, maybe YOU are the beacon of light illuminating this problem that needs to be brought up and talked about and not swept up under the carpet. Peace to you! Keep up the good work.
David, I’m so sorry people are shitheads Damn Sending you hugs because you Do not need crap like that about your artwork
Your great fan
My best wishes, Sent from Kat’s iPhone ^..^
firstname.lastname@example.org Artistic Director, Performing in NY Experience http://www.katwildishshowcase.com Adjunct Professor Pace University NYC/Commercial Dance, Classical Ballet >> http://performingarts.pace.edu/faculty/kat-wildish >> https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharine_Wildish
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There is so much truth in what you’re saying!! I applaud you for putting this out there. Keep doing you, for being an advocate for all children of color, and for more representation in the ballet world. Thank you a million times over!!
Hey there! I’m a white ballet mom and just wanted to say rock on with representing ALL dancers in your illustrations!!! I personally wouldn’t have it any other way! Ballet is for EVERYONE. Any girl with the technique and skill can and should be Clara. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with such ignorance and hatred. Don’t stop doing what you’re doing. For every ignorant, racist jerk out there, there are 100 other people ready to shut them down. This is an important conversation to have in the ballet world. Don’t let the racist few silence you! You’re doing great work.
I think what your doing is so important when my daughter a latina was Clara we could not find any Clara ornaments or nutcracker items that looked like her they were all blond and blue eyed I remember how disappointed she was to not find a Clara/Marie who looked like her I think it’s important to show diversity. I’m proud to say our professional ballet company Central West Ballet has had a very diverse Nutcracker cast
By all means there should always be all sorts of ethnicities represented! It is a shame that it is not often so.
Good for you, David! You’re doing something wonderful. Ballet–and all the arts–needs to be inclusive.
Thank you for your amazing work! please keep doing it. We need more diversity. I really appreciated this article. Thank you
I know I’m 100% tardy to the party on this, but both of PNB’s Clara’s are ethnic. One is Asian and the other is African American. Which I was super excited to see because that’s a huge company saying that “hey, 2 of the best choices this year weren’t white…and we didn’t care.” I’m white and I have more than enough representation; it’s time for some young, aspiring ballerinas of color to look up at the stage and say “HEY! that could be me someday!”
My son is African American and we chat about the challenges that face him as a professional dancer to be. Hopefully those challenges will be reduced in the years to come. California Ballet School has one African American female teacher, so hopefully the girls coming up will see a role model. California Ballet Company has a diverse male group of dancers (Asian, AfricanAmerican, Hispanic/Latino). which is getting more diverse as time goes on. My son has a number of role models here, but he makes a point that there is only one African American female dancer in the company. Diversity among men is much farther ahead than for women in most of the companies we’ve seen.