Misty Copeland shared a photo of two young ballerinas with the Bolshoi Theatre in Russia

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Misty Copeland is calling out a famed Russian ballet company for the use of performers in blackface.

Earlier this month, the history-making ballerina, 37, shared an Instagram photo showing two young dancers wearing blackface. According to CNN, the ballerinas in the photo are part of Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre and are performing in the ballet “La Bayadère,” which is set in India.

“And this is the reality of the ballet world….” Copeland captioned the post.

In subsequent Instagram posts, Copeland shared screenshots of comments she had received on the blackface post, as well as her response to them.

“This is so so so wrong and this doesn’t make it okay but keep in mind the girls dressed like this should know better but they don’t,” one commenter wrote. “And have also been forced to dress like this and wear this makeup because of the company. The people in power at the Bolshoi need to learn this is wrong.”

“I’m tired of giving the oppressors the benefit of the doubt,” Copeland said in response. “They need to be exposed, called out, educated and more. I have lived in the ballet world for 25 years. I have silenced myself around ‘them,’ and made them feel comfortable and suffered in silence. At 37 I feel ready and free to stop.”

Another commenter wrote: “This is post going send people to a child’s page. Not only is she a child, she is a Russian child. People can be brutal online and a child shouldn’t be subject to an onslaught of hostile comments. Sure, that makeup looks ridiculous, but… what is the percentage of Africans living in Russia and of that number, what percentage would be ballet dancers?”

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Misty Copeland

Copeland replied: “We can’t continue to make excuses for those who choose to not see what is in plain sight and that is the truth and reality of so many brown children being shot daily, and viewed as adults. I don’t condone bullying but lessons need to be had.”

Misty Copeland Calls Out Russian Ballet Company for Blackface
Credit: Misty Copeland/Instagram
Misty Copeland Calls Out Russian Ballet Company for Blackface
Credit: Misty Copeland/Instagram
Misty Copeland Calls Out Russian Ballet Company for Blackface
Credit: Misty Copeland/Instagram

In response to the blackface criticism, Vladimir Urin, the director of the theater, told Russian state-run media outlet RIA Novosti that the ballet has been performed the same way for many years and that the theater “will not be included in such a discussion,” CNN reported.

“I get that this is a VERY sensitive subject in the ballet world,” Copeland added on Twitter. “But until we can call people out and make people uncomfortable, change can’t happen.”