News

What to Watch: Misty Copeland and Ingrid Silva Push Pointe Shoe Brands Toward Inclusivity on "The Today Show"

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!

Ballet Careers
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

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Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

We put together a few of the most important things for dancers to look for in a summer or year-round training program, with the help of the experts at Colorado Ballet Academy:

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News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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