Ballet Shoes for Black Dancers

It’s usually difficult for whites to be aware, much less understanding, of the difference being black makes in today’s world. Ballet shoes may be a small example, but it is revealing of how easy it is for the society to ignore the needs of non-whites. Ballet is an art form based on tradition. The tradition favors white ballet dancers, and usually females. Slowly over time black dancers have made inroads both in the US and in the UK. Most of us now know of Misty Copeland and the Washington Ballet. Eric Underwood is another black dancer, an American who dances with the UK’s Royal Ballet. Because ballet shoes only come in fleshtones accommodating white dancers, he had to apply pancake make up to his. Fleshtone shoes allow the dancer to look natural, the idea is for the shoes to blend in with the skin. It takes up to half an hour for Eric, and other black dancers, to apply the pancake, some of it is lost during performing and since his ballet shoes only last 3 or 4 days, it became a time consuming process. Another dancer, Brooklyn Mack applied acrylic paints which could be oily and sometimes be tricky since an oily surface can be a dancer’s nightmare. Finally Underwood posted his frustration on Instagram wondering why there was no ballet shoes for black dancers. Many were in agreement, although a Russian ballet company didn’t see the need. But one manufacturer, only one, Bloch shoes responded, and Eric has been working with them to develop a shoe which will appropriately be called, “Eric Tan” and which is slated to go on sale in the near future. Maybe Eric tan can become a personal reminder of what else we need to do to treat non-whites equally.