A black ballet dancer has claimed an instructor told her to whiten her skin to fit in for performances.
Chloé Lopes Gomes was the first black dancer commissioned by the well-known German ballet company Staatsballet in 2018, but she told a news outlet she was the victim of discrimination almost straight away.
The 29-year-old claims her instructor requested that she use cosmetics to lighten her skin for Swan Lake and refused to give her a white veil along with everyone else because of the hue of her skin.
The French ballerina didn’t speak English or German when she first went to work in Berlin but was able to communicate with her mentor in Russian as she’d trained at Russia’s renowned Bolshoi Ballet.
She said this is why none of her classmates was able to hear the instructor’s comments.
The ballet mistress also evidently made her pose to recreate a picture of a black dancer surrounded by white dancers.
The dancer said she told the company’s co-artistic director at the time about her teacher’s actions, and he responded saying she should never be made to whiten her skin, but he also apparently said he couldn’t do anything about it because the instructor had a lifetime contract.
In October, the company told Ms Gomes her contract wouldn’t be renewed because they’d cut staff during the pandemic, but the ballerina has employed a lawyer to take the company on, it was reported.
Although ballerinas often whiten their skin for Swan Lake performances, Ms Gomes said this would be ineffective for her because her skin would never be the same hue as white people.
Staatsballet released a statement on Tuesday saying they were investigating archaic and discriminatory styles of performances.
The same statement addressed allegations that a separate staff member made weird noises in front of Asian dancers to imitate their language, and compared a Mexican ballerina to Pocahontas.
Interim artistic director Christine Theobald said that the racist and prejudiced behaviour that was brought to light in their company deeply moved them and that the necessary skills and tools to deal with matters of prejudice needed to be worked on thoroughly.
It’s incredible that the company have been so discriminatory because there are black swans as well, and they’re beautiful, but this is so unfair – what does it matter if you’re black or white, if she was good for the part when she had her audition, then the way she looked then, shouldn’t matter now.
She was employed due to her exceptional dancing capabilities and not her ethnicity or shade of skin, and she’s stunning the way that she is.
She was the victim of discrimination, yet she hung in there and done what she was told to do without quitting.
Discrimination has been rampant for an extremely long time and it will presumably carry on like this until the end of time, but people of ethnic minority and white people should all be regaled the same.
Many years ago we had an image of a rag doll on the side of the Robinson’s jam jars that were deemed racist. I loved them as a child and I didn’t see anything wrong in them, apart from their moniker, point being, just alter the name of them.
Then we had blackboards, now they’re whiteboards. Nothing immoral in a blackboard, it’s black and it’s a board.
What is wrong is when people seemingly make a point of identifying it with ethnic people, then it’s a problem.
I once had a doll that had two faces, one on either side of the doll, one side was ethnic and the other side was white. That doesn’t make me a racist – I’m the least racist person there is, and to me, that doll signified that I loved everybody equally. Do you see this as a problem, because I certainly don’t!