December 11th – Germany’s most prestigious ballet troupe has recently been accused of widespread racism and discrimination because a black dancer said that he was required to whiten his skin before playing to “integrate” into the performance.
According to The Guardian, French ballet dancer Lopez Gomes joined the Berlin Ballet in 2018, becoming the first black dancer in the history of the group.
Gomes said that she soon became the target of racist discrimination against female dance troupe teachers. The female teacher claimed that Gomes’ skin color was not suitable for ballet dancing, and if she wanted to dance Swan Lake, she had to apply white cosmetics on her skin.
When performing Swan Lake, in order to enhance the stage effect, the actors usually use cosmetic powder to make their skin look whiter, but it is useless to Gomes.
She said, “No matter how much I apply it, it will not be as white as those white actors after powdering it again.” While performing the famous ballet Dance Girl, the teacher refused to give Gomes the white veil she needed for her performance because her skin was black.
The Daily Mail reported that Gomes once complained to Johannes, the company’s artistic director, about the teacher’s behavior. The response was that she never needed to change her skin color, but the teacher signed a lifelong contract, and he could do nothing about it.
Gomes was told in October that the dance company would not renew its contract, but the company did not admit that the layoffs were related to color or ethnicity.
According to The Times, Gomes hired a lawyer to defend his rights in response to the decision. The report also pointed out that this is not the only racist discrimination in the Berlin Ballet.
Another employee was previously accused of making strange noises in front of Asian dancers to make fun of their language.
Christian, the interim artistic director of the dance group, responded in a statement on the 8th, “We are very shocked by the public racist and discriminatory acts, and we will investigate and take the necessary measures to completely solve this problem.”
Many famous people in the European dance industry publicly expressed their solidarity with Gomes, saying that they had suffered similar racist discrimination.
Marcelino Sambey, the chief dancer of the Royal Ballet, is the second black male to come to this position. He posted on social platforms that in a world of stereotypes or ballet circles, “it takes strength to tell the truth.”
“The career of dancers often depends on the preferences of the masters,” said Nazera Taylor, a brown dancer. “They are so important that it’s easy to insult or abuse dancers with impunity.”
Gomes told the BBC that there was an atmosphere of fear in the company, which was common throughout the dance world. “Although my colleagues often feel uncomfortable with what happened to me, most of them are afraid to say it.” In 2019, one of Germany’s most famous ballet training institutions, the Berlin State Ballet School, was accused of fostering a “culture of fear”.
In addition to intense training stress, students face physical and psychological abuse from their teachers, including beatings, verbal attacks and humiliation.