When Debra Austin became the first black woman to dance at New York City Ballet, hired by George Balanchine in 1971, there was very little publicity surrounding her appointment. Then, after dancing Zurich Ballet for two years, she was offered a principal contract with Pennsylvania Ballet—becoming the first black principal woman to be hired by a major American ballet company outside of Dance Theatre Harlem.
Last month Austin, now a beloved ballet master at Carolina Ballet, was named the Cecil H. and Ida Green Honors Chair at Texas Christian University's School of Classical and Contemporary Dance. During her residency she taught a series of master classes, gave lectures and participated in cultural events, including a "Conversations on Dance" talk moderated by TCU assistant professor and DTH ballet master Keith Saunders. In it, they discuss everything from her early training to her historic career to her thoughts on diversity in ballet today. And, bonus, TCU has been kind enough to share a video of their discussion—watch their candid discussion below!
TCU Dance Conversation with Debra Austin www.youtube.com