Updated on June 12, 2020
Last year, in a segment on "The Today Show" on diverse shades of pointe shoes, Dance Theatre of Harlem artistic director Virginia Johnson reflected on the groundbreaking 1970's-era performance, when DTH founder Arthur Mitchell had the company dance in dyed shoes for the first time. "When the curtain went up you saw a range of people in all different skin tones," she said. "It was the most exquisite thing to see." Yet it wasn't until 2017 that Gaynor Minden made waves as the first pointe shoe brand to offer shoes in a diverse range of shades, saving Black and Brown dancers massive amounts of time and energy spent pancaking their shoes by hand. Freed followed suit in 2018, in a collaboration with London-based Ballet Black. So Danca also offers its Toshie and Aurora models in Mocha, a shade of brown satin.
So it should come as no surprise that in the midst of nationwide protests demanding racial justice, the ballet community has turned to social media to demand that other major pointe shoe makers, including Bloch, Capezio, Repetto and Suffolk, start to make shoes in darker shades. On Tuesday Bloch released a statement online sharing the company's plans to release a line including more inclusive pointe shoe shades this fall. "We have been intently listening, reflecting on what we are doing and what we can do better and acknowledge we have not been moving fast enough," the statement says. "Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 product development was severely slowed down however we are fully committed to following through with these plans and confirm we will be introducing darker shades into our pointe shoes and Blochsox range in fall this year."
The next day, two more brands jumped on board. Russian Pointe announced that it too would release a new line in a diverse range of shades, called RP Palette Pointe Shoes. "We are thrilled to announce that the RP Palette will not only offer color matched tights, ballet slippers, ribbon and elastic, but also POINTE SHOES!," Russian Pointe posted on Instagram. Capezio will also expand its offerings with darker shades available in two of its most popular stock pointe shoe styles come fall. "We support all dancers' dreams to express themselves through the beautiful art of dance," wrote Capezio CEO Michael Terlizzi, who urged customers to continue to share their thoughts and comments via email at email@example.com.
Yesterday, Nikolay added its voice to the mix, sharing on Instagram that it had launched two new colors, called Latte and Espresso, in February, but its plans were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. "You can now place your orders for these awesome new colors!," Nikolay wrote. "We are producing them on request in any model, shank and size." The collection also includes a matte canvas tan option.
And earlier today, Grishko and Suffolk both announced on Instagram that they would be offering pointe shoes in various skin tones soon. "We will begin production as soon as the raw materials we have ordered are available," wrote Mark and Keri Suffolk, the company's founders. "Please remember most of our suppliers are not yet out of lockdown from Covid-19."
These announcements come after a two-year-old Change.org petition went viral over the weekend, garnering 169,804 signatures before closing. A similar petition directed at Capezio has 289,930 supporters just two days after its creation, and is steadily gaining more. A third petition, with just over 7,000 signatures so far, takes the plea a step forward, urging all pointe shoe companies to offer options for dancers of color, calling out in particular Capezio, Repetto and Suffolk. "If you don't fit the one shade of shoe color, you automatically feel like you don't belong," wrote Megan Watson, the creator of the Capezio petition. "Every person deserves to feel included in something they love."