Laurel van der Linde and Sawyer Cloud
The six brilliant Black ballet dancers almost leap right off the pages of this show-stoppingly illustrated, narrative non-fiction book.
First we are introduced to Essie Marie Dorsey who although she never made it as a ballet dancer herself on account of her colour, made sure that others could by opening her own dance school in Philadelphia – The Essie Marie Dorsey School of Dancing; and to get Black parents to enrol their children, she went knocking on their doors asking them to send their offspring as pupils and so they did.
Next is Arthur Mitchell; such was his skill at ballet, that he attracted the attention of George Balanchine, artistic director of New York City Ballet and was invited to join the company, eventually becoming the first Black principal dancer. Even then it wasn’t plain sailing for in 1957 an audience deemed it unacceptable for a Black man to dance with a white woman. Some twelve years later using his own money, Arthur co-founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem ballet company.
Christian Holder moved to England aged seven with his family, then later attended the New York High School of Performing Arts. His talent was noted by the choreographer Robert Joffrey and as principal dancer, he had to face racial prejudice but it was his partner, not Christian who was replaced.
Dwight Rhoden too was held back on account of his skin colour, but as a choreographer went on to cofound Complexions Contemporary Ballet.
Last come two women, Misty Copeland who in 2015 became the first Black ballerina to be Principal Dancer of American Ballet Theatre and finally Michaela DePrince who when a very young orphan in Sierra Leone saw a magazine picture of a ballerina.
When she was adopted by a family from New Jersey she went on to become a star dancer of Boston Ballet.
Ground breakers all and each of these dance lovers achieved greatness by overcoming obstacles through self belief, determination and of course, amazing talent.
A lovely book to inspire youngsters to follow their dreams, whether or not that involves dance.