Black History Month
February 28, 2022
From past to present artists, this Black History Month, our dancers shared their thoughts on the ballet artists who inspire them.
Raven Wilkinson: Inspires Brendan Saye
“Raven Wilkinson always made an impression on me from when I first learned of her in school. She famously was one of the first Black ballet dancers to join a ballet troupe in the 1950s, Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo. Though she bore the initial blows of discrimination, she set a precedent for aspiring dancers of colour everywhere, that the coulour of their skin didn’t need to limit the size of their dreams.” — Principal Dancer Brendan Saye
Charmaine Hunter: Inspires Tanya Howard
“My inspiration is Charmaine Hunter. Specifically the poster of the famous image of her jumping in The Firebird. I will never know how in the world that poster came to be in the studio I danced in in my tiny town in South Africa, but it was there. To me, she WAS the Firebird. I was thrilled to be on a panel discussion last year where I told Charmaine that story. It was a lovely moment.”— First Soloist Tanya Howard
Lauren Anderson: Inspires Jordana Daumec
“Lauren Anderson had a huge impact on me when I was growing up. An inspiration to me as a ballet student and even in my career, she was the representation that I needed to see to know that the sky’s the limit.
"As the first African American Principal Dancer at Houston Ballet in 1990, she broke the stereotype of what a typical ballerina looked like. She was one of the few African American ballerinas at the top of a major ballet company. With her musicality, strength and grace there was nothing she couldn’t do and she let nothing stand in her way. I knew even as a young child I wanted my career to follow in a similar path. A highlight of my adult dance career was meeting Lauren at the MoBBallet symposium.” — First Soloist Jordana Daumec
Carolyn Bolton: Inspires Harrison James
Carolyn Bolton. Photo Stephen Wright/Nick Guttridge.
“I first met Carolyn Bolton when I was dancing with Béjart Ballet Lausanne in 2012. I remember noticing her in class, dancing with such intent and focus. Not a member of the ballet company herself, Carolyn was working towards auditions later in the season. From the outside, it seemed like she never faltered and her perseverance never waivered. This is probably not true of her experience, BUT every day she came to class to work towards her goal and every day she brought with her such a positive energy and sense of purpose. I have such admiration for that and was so thrilled when she landed a job with Rambert, the UK’s largest contemporary dance company, based in London, where her tenacity and talent were very quickly put to use! Carolyn was and is a great example to me, of how I wanted to be, in the dance world but also in the world at large.” — Principal Dancer Harrison James
Nora Kimball: Inspires Evan McKie
Nora Kimball. Photo by Hans Gerritsen.
“I didn’t want to blink when I was watching and getting to know Nora Kimball in the moving art that so many choreographers created for her; John Neumeier, William Forsythe and fashion designer Issey Miyake. Nora is an African American and Asian American dancer and educator. Watching her dance let’s us tune into and receive all of her life experiences with each of her steps. I find it quite a rare thing to see someone who physically is able to embrace and coordinate so many different qualities without fear.
"Nora is still as inspiring to me now as she ever was, perhaps even more so with each year of experience that she accumulates. I’m STILL working on the wisdom that she so generously gave us in the studio; the questions she had us ask ourselves about movement quality get even more interesting with each year that I’m on stage. That’s Nora’s ever appreciating gift to us. I think that’s called trailblazing.” — Principal Dancer Evan McKie
Alexander Skinner: Inspires Jordana Daumec
Alexander Skinner in rehearsal for Orpheus Alive. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
“One of the many special things about being in a ballet company is getting to see a younger dancer grow and flourish. Alexi is one of those special people, inside and out. An elegant, thoughtful, hardworking and beautiful dancer, Alexi is growing into his own with each new role he is given. It’s wonderful to be able to watch his star rise. And I’m sure kids looking to start ballet will see him, be able to see themselves and be inspired.” — First Soloist Jordana Daumec
The inspiration is endless, and we can learn more about these talented individuals and others, by visiting MoBBallet’s Roll Call. MoBBallet is a site dedicated to curating the memoirs of Blacks in Ballet and a rich source of information on the contributions of Black ballet dancers to the artform.