As part of their ongoing mission to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community, Nashville Ballet is excited to announce that they will be transitioning each of their artists into dancer-specific flesh-tone tights and shoes. Though Nashville Ballet Company members of color have worn these tights in their studios and stages for over a decade and blazed the trail for this transition, this will be the first year where every dancer will perform in a set identical to their skin tone.
Since the 19th century, pink tights and shoes have been considered a dance-wear standard for ballet dancers of all races and ethnicities. Historically, the purpose of utilizing pink tights was to mute the muscle definition of a dancer’s leg whilst making the skin of the dancer appear to be more fair and paler than the dancer’s natural skin tone. This tradition, rooted in European-centric beauty standards, is not reflective of Nashville Ballet’s mission to create an inclusive dance community in which all can engage and thrive.
It was not until the early 1970s that this began to change, when the Dance Theater of Harlem, under the direction of Arthur Mitchell, debuted custom-made flesh tone tights and shoes. Since then, the dedication and advocacy of dancers of color across various dance disciplines has paved the way for companies like Nashville Ballet to make the same transition. As the ballet world continues to diversify and move further away from ideas and concepts of white centrality, it is necessary that even ballet’s most long-standing traditions be evaluated through the lens of the times in which we currently live.
“At its core, dance is a means of expression—a tool to share who we really are,” said Nashville Ballet Artistic Director Paul Vasterling. “When we fully embrace that, we not only showcase the individuality of our dancers, but we also give audiences the chance to find themselves in the art. For too long, only certain people could relate to what they were seeing on stage, and that’s not what we strive for. It’s not who we want to be. While we are excited to implement this change in its entirety, we also recognize that it is only a small step towards true progress, so we will continue to listen, uplift, and strive to do better, because we all have a role to play in this movement, and Nashville Ballet is no exception.”
Nashville Ballet is committed to creating a climate of respect that is supportive of all voices, celebrating diverse stories, increasing arts access, and sparking important discussions about their own community and beyond through their art form and artistic programming. With the intention of diversity, equity and inclusion, the Nashville Ballet and community partners such as Crossroads Antiracism, MoBBallet, All Access Inclusion Network, Moves and Grooves and others they hope to continue to take steps towards creating a truly inclusive, safe space for individuals and communities of all races, genders, ages, socioeconomic status,’ disability status, geographic locations, and sexual orientations.
Learn more about Nashville Ballet’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, the history of pink tights in ballet, and the experiences of artists of color at <nashvilleballet.com>.