Yesterday, pointe shoes made national news when "The Today Show" covered the shift that some brands have made towards creating shoes in shades of brown. The five-minute Sunday Spotlight segment, hosted by NBC's Willie Geist and Morgan Radford, includes interviews with Misty Copeland, Ingrid Silva, Virginia Johnson and Eliza Gaynor Minden.
Silva, a star dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem, shows her pancaking process, and shares her wish that more pointe shoe brands would catch up so that she could skip this painstaking extra step. Radford explains Arthur Mitchell's decision in the 1970s to have his Dance Theatre of Harlem ballerinas dye their shoes to match their skin tone; Johnson, the company's current artistic director and a founding member, shares her memory of the impact of that first performance. "When the curtain went up you saw a range of people in all different skin tones," she says. "It was the most exquisite thing to see."
Copeland points out that buying shoes that come in only one color–"European pink"–says so much about ballet's historical lack of diversity, and sends an underlying message to young dancers. Radford highlights Gaynor Minden as the first company to debut shoes in shades of brown, thanks to its founder Eliza Gaynor Minden's steadfast commitment to inclusivity. More recently, Freed of London announced its collaboration with BalletBlack to create the first diverse skin tone pointe shoes in the U.K.
While this move towards increased inclusivity isn't news to most bunheads, it's always exciting to see issues of importance to the ballet community elevated to the national stage. Geist ends the segment with the hope that more brands catch on soon. Check it out now!