Dear Boston Ballet School Community:
We as an arts organization stand in solidarity with our black students, black dancers, black colleagues and the black community. We continue to join with millions in protest against the recent, but not new, police brutality and racial injustice that underscores our society’s unfinished steps toward creating equity for all across our country. And within the ballet industry, we understand now more than ever, the need to expand our efforts to actively address racism and white privilege to support our black students and families in our community.
For over 65 years, BBS has strived to serve individuals of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities within and beyond our studios, yet we understand that not everyone has always felt welcome. It is our job to address this, and not ignore it. Over the past few years we have made a more intentional commitment toward diversity and inclusion through the following initiatives, many of which are ongoing, and much of which are just beginning:
- Participated in the 3-year Equity Project designed to increase the number of black representation in all areas of the ballet industry in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem, The International Association of Blacks in Dance, Dance USA, and 21 professional ballet organizations across North America
- Revised our dress code to allow students to self-select a tight, slipper, and pointe shoe color that best matches their natural skin tone in which they feel most comfortable
- Planned to host the second annual MoBBallet Symposium at BBS in support of building up a community of black pre-professional students through education and mentorship, which will now take place virtually in August 2020
- Created a culturally responsive Boston community member’s guide for attending company performances at the Citizen’s Bank Opera House
- Conducted a series of training/lectures for faculty and staff to better understand cultural relevancy in teaching and learn about the history of black dancers in America
- Committed at the executive level to increase the representation of non-white personnel throughout faculty, staff and musicians
- Provided a space for pre-professional program students of color to use their voices to share their experiences at BBS and offer ideas to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment-out of which we will provide sensitivity training for the student body (planned for SDP 2020) and build a mentoring program to support students of color across our school
- Worked to make programs available via new technology for increased access across all programs
- Partnered with organizations in Boston including Boys and Girls Clubs, schools, and community centers, throughout the past ten years, to provide an onsite introduction to dance education to over 150 students per year. These students are also provided the opportunity to visit the Boston Studio as well as six Boston Ballet performances, offering a 360-degree arts education experience
- Our Citydance program (established in 1991) provides 3,000 Boston Public School third graders a tuition-free introduction to dance each year. Efforts have recently been placed on increasing the enrollment of Citydance students into Classical Ballet Program via parental engagement, scholarships, and community building
Our dream for BBS is to support radical and disruptive change, change that will result in the artistic voices of our culturally diverse community finding a place of welcome here. Art, and more specifically dance, has the potential to transcend the boundaries of our differences in which to heal the exclusion so many have experienced in a predominately white ballet world, and we must do better. I ask that you join me, along with the entire BBS family, in our commitment to the work of learning and growing. We will work to hold ourselves accountable for creating a new lens that can bring relevance to sharing a dance education for all, which lies at the heart of our mission.
The work that has been done is just a beginning and we must do more. Please share your ideas and feedback with us at SCHOOL@BOSTONBALLET.ORG. We are listening!
Director, Boston Ballet School