It took 200 years for shoes to be made for ballerinas of color.
Pointe shoes were created for ballerinas in the 1820s. The shoes were originally white, but were later made in pink to match the skin tones of European dancers. The first professional Black ballerina Raven Wilkinson, didn’t make her debut until the 1950s.
In 2015, Misty Copeland became the first Black woman to become principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. But it wasn’t until 2017 that flesh-colored pointe shoes became widely available for ballerinas of color.
“So when I received these amazing Freed’s [of London Factory] pointe shoes called Ballet Bronze I felt like I was really lucky, because my first pointe shoes actually were super pink and super hard and everything, and it didn’t match my skin color,” explained Ballet Black junior artist Marie Astrid Mence. “It was ok, but having those now it’s like, it’s just magical like it’s pleasing to watch and it makes me just happy and makes me want to do better in ballet and dance in general.”
Classical ballet is still mainly comprised of white dancers. But ballerinas of color are finding their place in the community one step at a time.