Tuesday, March 6, 2012

From The Black Swan Diaries: Hair We Go

I came across this beautiful dancer on facebook on a friend's page and immediately took interest. She is a beautiful African American ballet dancer who blogs about her experiences facing adversities as a black dancer. She went from being told her career as a black dancer was over, to being Zoe Saldana's dance double in the movie Center Stage. While sifting through her blog looking through beautiful photos of her dancing, I noticed that all I saw was beautiful waves brushed back into her ballerina buns... a few minutes later, I found this post:

"I came across this photo while doing some research on my last post. It was the observation in the paragraph that followed which presented an interesting topic and stirred up some uncomfortable memories from my past. The comment went as follows:

“i find the natural hair charming/interesting, esp because a black ballet dancer would almost certainly have to straighten/pull back her hair, unless the company was alt/up-and-coming/deliberately provocative. but i don’t think i’ve ever seen a picture of a black ballet dancer with a fro. natural hair, yes. fro, no.”
This comment made me recall several instances where my hair caused me to feel distant and removed from the classical art I had grown to love. There were many ballets where the dancer was meant to wear their hair down, and the image of long flowing locks billowing through the air as the dancers movement graced the stage was a breathtaking image for all who observed. Many of the ballets highlighted hair as the dancers were required to either wear long ponytails or have lengthy hair that draped and flowed during performances. This built in aesthetic posed real challenges to many girls no matter what ethnicity, but an even greater challenge for myself and other dancers of color. Luckily, we all had tricks up their sleeves to overcome these natural challenges. One particular instance during my time at Bejart Ballet will forever stick with me. While choreographing a new piece, Maurice Bejart instructed each dancer to let down their hair to see if he could incorporate that into the piece. He instructed each girl, one by one to take down their hair, and as I stood their watching each girl’s hair fall gracefully down their backs, my insecurity begin crawling its way up my spine. My hair is textured and not prone to falling down straight like what I have seen in many ballets. I believed in protecting my hair by keeping it natural and avoiding harsh and damaging chemical perms and relaxers.  I also enjoyed the versatility that my natural hair provided. However, inside I knew this was not the image he was looking for.  I certainly had never seen any evidence that my hair type was desired as the above comment so pointedly stated. Therefore, when my turn came and I loosened my hair band—my hair puffed out crinkly and curly, not straight down.  Maurice smiled and some dancers chuckled. Luckily, I was a much more mature dancer and was able to brush off such a reaction. I could only image how such insensitivity would have affected me as a younger dancer. However, this episode still bothered me. It never feels good to be laughed at because of who you are. However, although I was offended and disappointed, I was not surprised."

To read the rest of her post go to Hair We Go by Aesha Ash of The Black Swan Diaries

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